Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tourney Time

The NCAA hockey tournament begins tomorrow, which means you still have time to enter the College Hockey Pickem Challenge and join the Fraters group:

1. Register an account (FREE)

2. Join the Fraters group-Group name: Fraters Password: fraters

3. Fill out your brackets (including total goals scored tiebreaker)

4. Sit back and enjoy the action

Like the other college sports tournament taking place this time of year, the NCAA hockey field is pretty wide open. There isn’t an obvious favorite to win the whole thing and even picking any of the four regional winners who will travel to Pittsburgh for the Frozen Four is a difficult chore.

My tried, tested, and sometimes true approach to NCAA puck bracketology has been to go with teams from the strongest conference (no, it ain’t exactly a unique method.) Given my personal and regional biases, that’s usually lead me to favor teams from the WCHA. Sadly enough, I won’t be able to do that next year when the rich tradition and rivalries of the WCHA will go by the board so that the Big 10 Network can sell more ads. That stupidity and shortsightedness of that decision are obvious to anyone paying attention, but the die has been cast and so we must live with the consequences.

The WCHA as we know and love it is going out on a high note however and has fielded six of the sixteen NCAA tournament teams. While anything could happen, the sheer quantity and superior quality of WCHA teams makes it likely in my mind that one of those six teams will win the national title. The challenge is determining which one.

West Regional (Grand Rapids, MI)

The one positive thing about the new Big 10 hockey conference is that the NCAA will no longer have an excuse for putting Minnesota and North Dakota into the same regional to assure that they both don’t reach the Frozen Four. Until then, it seems probable that we’ll see another UND-UM game to determine who goes to Pittsburgh. By the way, does anyone else find it strange that the “West” regional is being played in Michigan?

Friday #1 Minnesota vs #4 Yale: The Gophers face Yale in the tourney lid lifter at 1pm CT tomorrow. Minnesota should win this game, but this year’s Gopher squad is not one that inspires unshakable confidence. They’ve been inconsistent at times and anytime you’re relying on a freshman goalie you’re putting yourself in jeopardy. That being said, the Gophers should have enough to get past the boorish Yalies. Minnesota 4 Yale 2

Friday #2 North Dakota vs #3 Niagara: The Sioux have also been far from formidable at times this year and counting on a Dave Hakstol team to play its best in the NCAA tourney is a dicey proposition. But, Niagara? Really? Just don’t see it. North Dakota 5 Niagara 2

Saturday #1 Minnesota vs #2 North Dakota: My heart says to pick the Gophers, but my head tells me the team that shall not be named will prevail. North Dakota 4 Minnesota 3

Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH)

Two Hockey East and two WCHA teams meet in this regional.

Friday #1 U Mass-Lowell vs #4 Wisconsin: U Mass has a great goalie and played well in the Hockey East tourney. Wisconsin needed an improbable run through the WCHA Final Five to make the tournament and is on an impressive roll. Something has to give. Wisconsin 2 U Mass Lowell 1

Friday #2 New Hampshire vs #3 Denver: New Hampshire is a regular tourney participant that never seems to have enough to win it all. Denver was upset by CC in the WCHA playoffs and has had two weeks off. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? The layoff and home ice for UNH prove too much for DU. New Hampshire 3 Denver 2

Saturday #4 Wisconsin vs #2 New Hampshire: No one expected Wisconsin to get this far. But momentum and confidence at this time of year are critical. Plus WCHA > Hockey East. Wisconsin 3 New Hampshire 1

Midwest Regional (Toledo, OH)

Ah yes, that hockey hotbed known as Toledo. This is an interesting regional with two WCHA teams (both from Minnesota) and the Golden Domers and Red Hawks from the CCHA.

Saturday #1 Notre Dame vs #4 SCSU: Notre Dame won the CCHA tourney and has a talented team. SCSU was regular season co-champion of the WCHA. But the Huskies have only won one NCAA tournament game in their history and I was not particularly impressed by what I saw of them this year. If their goalie plays well, they have a shot, but a find in more likely their NCAA dreams will once again die early. Notre Dame 5 SCSU 4

Saturday #2 Miami vs #3 Minnesota State: Noted hockey expert Hugh Hewitt is picking the Red Hawks to win the title which means they are eventually doomed. But they should be able to get by Minnesota State. Miami 3 Minnesota State 2

Sunday #1 Notre Dame vs #2 Miami: As long as the Irish are able to get back from Easter Mass in time to warm up, they should prevail over their conference foe. Notre Dame 4 Miami 1

East Regional (Providence, RI)

Wait a second, there aren’t any WCHA teams in the East? Imagine that. Funny how the NCAA will do everything possible to avoid another all WCHA Frozen Four.

Saturday #1 Quinnipiac vs #4 Canisius: This sounds more like a battle between Roman senators than college hockey teams. A recently released Quinnipiac poll shows that a majority of college hockey fans believe the Bobcats will win. I actually watched parts of a couple of Quinnipiac (rated #1 overall) games this year (more college hockey on TV than ever), but still can’t tell if they’re for real or not (nice logo though). But still, Canisius? Really? Quinnipiac 4 Canisius 2

Saturday #2 Boston College vs #3 Union: BC is the defending national champion. While they’re not the same team they were last year, they’re better than Union. BC 5 Union 3

Sunday #1 Quinnipiac vs #2 Boston College: Quinnipiac has been ranked #1 overall for a good part of the season yet questions remain about their credibility. I gotta go with an experienced BC team that’s been there before over a team from a conference of questionable quality. Plus I really hate trying to type Q-u-i-n-n-i-p-i-a-c so much. BC 3 Quinnipiac 1

Frozen Four (Pittsburgh, PA)

Semifinal #1 North Dakota vs Wisconsin: The battle of long time WCHA rivals will be close and hard fought. UND 3 Wisconsin 2

Semifinal #2 Notre Dame vs Boston College: The Irish are two much for the defending champs. Notre Dame 5 BC 3

Championship North Dakota vs Notre Dame: I’ve picked UND to win the national title two or maybe three times in the last decade and they’ve always screwed me. This time around will be different. If it’s not Hakstol should be canned. North Dakota 4 Notre Dame 3

Drop the puck.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXXI)

Another holiday themed edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the hippity hoppity folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to bring spring to your step at any occasion.

Now that the season has officially sprung and the weather has finally swung to recognize the change, our thoughts can at last safely turn toward spring. Spring isn’t a season with a proliferation of beers associated with it and those that are released seem to function mostly as a transition from the typically heavier beers of winter to the lighter fare of summer. And while winter’s big holiday Christmas has a number of beers that bear its name, it’s not often that you find beers that specifically embrace Easter.

When I was a youth, we spent many an Easter visiting our grandparents in northeastern Iowa. So there is a personal connection between the holiday and the place for me.

And the featured beer this week actually shares that connection as well. I’m pretty sure it’s the first Beer of the Week from Iowa and definitely the first Easter themed beer.

Millstream Brewing Company describes itself as “Iowa's Most Historic & Award-Winning Micro Brewery.” While that’s a bit like calling yourself “Iowa’s most hip and best-dressed man” (relatively little competition in either area), Millstream does actually have an impressive track record.

Some years ago, three Amana men decided to revive the art that hasn't been practiced in Amana for years - the art of brewing beer. Carroll F. Zuber and brothers James and Dennis Roemig dreamt of building a small brewery to produce small batches of hand brewed beer reminiscent of Europe's finest brews.

To brew the best they needed the best, so they called on one of America's premier brewers, Joseph Pickett Sr., who helped in the brewery design, in the development of the beers, Millstream Lager and the robust, Schild Brau. Later, Millstream brewers, developed the zesty Millstream Wheat Beer.

In 1985 Millstream Brewing Co. opened its doors - the first brewery to operate in Amana since 1884. So the Millstream Brewery was born and so it has come to be recognized as the home of quality brews of rewarding taste.

The Story Continues in 2000 with the sale of the brewery to Chris Priebe, Tom and Teresa Albert. Chris is naturally handy and keeps the brewery in tip-top shape. Chris also is a trained brewer from the Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology and has brought many years of brewing experience to Millstream. Teresa is an excellent people person and handles all the sales and marketing. Tom is our warehouse and production manager. He is the "glue" that binds the place together. It takes a good team to run a good brewery!

These owners are committed to continually making quality brews, one batch at a time. With a current count of 18 national awards and 1 international award, Millstream speaks of some of the finest beer made in the Midwest today. The brewers have introduced many different styles of beer to Millstream Brewery and with the passing of the higher alcohol law change in spring of 2010, many more styles will be coming out! The Brewery hopes to be able to reach out to local consumers in new and exciting ways.

Long Live Beer Made In Iowa!

Amen. Apparently there was a law in Iowa that prohibited brewers from producing beer with higher alcohol content. This law was changed in 2010 which allowed Millstream to launch their Brewmaster’s Extreme Series of beers. The spring seasonal in that series is “Hoppy-Feaster Wit IP Eah?” which is our Beer of the Week.

Four pack of 12oz bottles goes for $7.99. Green white and gray label features a confident looking rabbit above a barrel with WIT on it that may or may not be intended to invoke thoughts of a Saint Bernard rescue dogs.



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

AROMA (0-2): Tart grapefruit, pine and coriander. 2

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

TASTE (0-5): Bitter hop flavors of citrus, pine, off the mark with bready caramel malts and lots of pepper at the finish. Medium-bodied, well carbonated, with a smooth mouthfeel. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Bitter and deep. 2

OVERALL (0-6): The combination of the heavy hops of an IPA and spiciness of a wit make for a quirky beer that is definitely unique. While it’s a bit messy at times, in general the mashup works well and delivers both flavor and refreshment. A good beer choice to welcome our late arriving spring and to celebrate the glories of Easter this Sunday. And if you happened to give up beer for Lent this year, this wouldn’t be a bad to end your fast. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 15

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Enemy is We

Elizabeth Scalia on A Gospel Pasteurized for Our Protection:

It struck me as odd that the same people who say they wish to “build up the community of the People of God,” and who often decry what they see as “limitations” to the role of the laity, completely omitted any interaction between themselves and the people in the pews. The Gospel reading for Palm Sunday is the only one inviting lay participation, yet none was permitted. That seems a terrible mistake and a loss.

Without our collective calls for Barabbas, for the Crucifixion of Christ, and for Jesus to save himself, we lost an opportunity to be appalled by ourselves. We were denied a chance to once more glean some sound theological, spiritual, and personal insights into how often we choose what is worst, rather than best, for us; the assist that we give to the destruction of the Body of Christ when we advance the brokenness of the world; the lazy service we give to our cynicism.

Yes, I know, we’re all supposed to feel very good about ourselves as beloved children of God, but it seems to me that on this Sunday entering into Holy Week, we ought to be allowed to acknowledge what miserable bastards we all can be, and feel a little lousy about it, at least for the length of a liturgy.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cred on Ice

Time once again for the College Hockey Pickem - sponsored by Forgotten Miracle and Pond Hockey:

Welcome to College Hockey Pickem 2013, sponsored by Northland Films and USCHO.

Think you know who will win the Frozen Four? Sign up and make your picks. After all, why should the hoops fans get to have all the fun?

It's easy. Register a username and password to sign-up. Then create a bracket, make your picks and see how your bracket measures up with the rest of the nation. Create or join a group of friends to compete for bragging rights! And, if you're in first place after the final horn, you could win a $100 gift card from! Enjoy the game!

And don't forget, for complete coverage of all the action, visit, your college hockey experts.

Once again there will be Fraters group this year which you easily join here. The group name is Fraters and the password is fraters. Easy, right?

Get you brackets filled out Friday when the puck drops at 1pm (CST). College puck bragging cred is on the line.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Time For Bed

Learning While Sleeping Like a Baby (WSJ-sub req):

Children may sleep so much because they have so much to learn (though toddlers may find that scant consolation for the dreaded bedtime). It's paradoxical to try to get children to learn by making them wake up early to get to school and then stay up late to finish their homework.

Of the many benefits of homeschooling, two of the most obvious are not having to wake kids up in the morning to get them ready for school, thus allowing them to get the sleep they need, and not having to worry about the kids staying up late at night to complete homework. You might even say it's a more natural way of learning.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rally Round Tha Family

In the February edition of First Things, Robert Reno examined an interesting report on different family cultures and what those differences portend for the future:

The report, which summarizes the results of a three-year investigation conducted by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture (the research team includes Ashley Berner, author of “The Case for Educational Pluralism” in the December issue, and Advisory Council member Joseph Davis), breaks down family cultures into four basic categories: the Faithful, the Engaged Progressives, the Detached, and the American Dreamers. The latter two family cultures largely accept the status quo. Detached parents report a feeling of helplessness. For good or ill, their kids are formed by popular culture. American Dreamers are more positive, but they want their children to succeed as success is defined by others. By contrast, the Faithful and the Engaged Progressives raise their children on their own terms, inculcating into them well-formed, confident, and comprehensive worldviews.

Twenty percent of American parents are among the Faithful. They largely reject the sexual revolution. Sixty-eight percent register the strongest possible disagreement with the proposition that “sex before marriage is okay if a couple love each other.” Sixty-nine percent think contraception should not be made available to teenagers without their parents’ approval. Three-quarters reject same-sex marriage.

When it comes to women and the workplace, the Faithful mothers are more likely to stay at home with the kids than are others. This does not correlate to a simplistic view of women at home and men in the workplace. The Faithful are much more likely than other parents to “completely agree” that a woman should put family above career, but they also insist with equal vehemence that the same holds for men. Family trumps personal needs and desires. Not surprisingly, the Faithful are also hostile to the culture of divorce. A striking 60 percent reject the view that divorce is preferable to sustaining an unhappy marriage, as compared to 16 percent of other parents. Eighty-eight percent are married, and 74 percent remain in their first marriages.

These are the sorts of folks who read FIRST THINGS. They don’t accept the moral minimalism of our therapeutic age. A resounding 91 percent reject the view that “as long as we don’t hurt others, we should be able to live however we want.” Eighty-eight percent think we should guide our behavior by what God or Scripture says. And they’re confident. Two-thirds say that controlling teenagers’ access to technology (internet, social media, cell phones) is not a losing battle. They’re overwhelmingly more likely than the general population of parents to agree that “it is my responsibility to help others lead more moral lives.” Which is what they do, forming strong communities that are often organized around church and church-related education for their children.

The bells, they are a ringing. Broad categorizations such as this are obviously not going to perfectly capture where an individual family may fall, but the label Faithful is definitely the most apt choice to describe our family.

The Engaged Progressive parents are in many ways equally committed and equally determined—and, at 21 percent of all parents, as numerous as the Faithful. They emphasize personal autonomy. People need to be given space to find their own ways in life. Over half affirm that “as long as we don’t hurt others, we should all just live however we want.” A super-majority (83 percent) agrees that we should be tolerant of “alternative lifestyles.”

Engaged Progressives endorse a mobile and plastic view of morality, one attuned to personal needs and differences. They’re skeptical of traditional authorities, especially religious ones, which they view as overly punitive and insufficiently inclusive. Eighty percent of Engaged parents say they wouldn’t appeal to Scripture or religious authorities to guide the moral development of their children. They also tend to reject spanking (a third say it’s positively wrong to do so), which in my experience is the single most reliable predictor of the whole range of progressive views. They want their kids to be fair-minded, caring, and non-judgmental. This reflects their vision of society, which is not a libertarian dreamland where people get to seek individual self-interest, but instead a therapeutic culture in which people are affirmed and supported in their personal journeys.

Although Engaged Progressives say that divorce is preferable to an unhappy marriage, they are almost as likely to remain married as the Faithful. They are also as likely to eat meals with their children. Mothers with pre-school kids are very nearly as likely to stay at home. They may be more permissive than the Faithful, but they’re no less committed to maintaining their families and serving the needs of their kids. Almost all (93 percent) say that they invest a great deal of effort in shaping the moral character of their children. Their family culture is very strong.

This particular family culture is one that’s not always properly identified and understood. They are families that seem to embrace traditional views on things like the importance of marriage, education, and strong families, while at the same time holding progressive political views. They accept and help perpetuate a non-judgmental attitude toward the lifestyle choices of others while they themselves follow the same path that was once regarded as a societal norm that all should strive toward.

Child-rearing is the most primitive of all political acts, as Plato, Rousseau, and many others have recognized. Given the differences in family cultures, it’s not surprising that the Faithful and the Engaged Progressives clash in the voting booth. The Faithful are overwhelmingly Republican. Engaged Progressives are Democrat by an almost four-to-one margin. What’s more subtle is the clash over social institutions, with the Faithful tending toward a counterculture and the Engaged Progressives taking command of civic institutions.

The Culture of American Families Project shows that the Faithful are alienated from public institutions and the dominant cultural forces at work in society. They are the most likely to think moral standards in America have declined. They don’t turn to the experts our society now credentials and authorizes—therapists, psychologists, school administrators, teachers, and counselors. This distrust is epitomized in their attitude toward public schools: 42 percent see them as largely bad for children, as compared to 19 percent of other parents. Among the Faithful whose children go to public schools, 63 percent report that if they could afford to do so they would send their kids to religious schools or homeschool them. In sum, they largely reject the forms of social authority that have fallen under the control of the Engaged Progressives.

This alienation is not dysfunctional, although it can sometimes look that way to those who wish to superintend our society. The Faithful respond by investing in the social institutions they find trustworthy—religious communities primarily, but also the schools, media, and social networks that support and are supported by their religious, moral, and social commitments. In a way unimagined by cultural observers fifty years ago, a religious subculture has emerged in America. It sometimes expresses anger and despair over the larger trends in society. But just as often, it is confident and self-assured, even hopeful. As the investigators report, compared to most parents, “the Faithful feel better supported by their web of relations.”

So we have two strong groups each certain in their views and committed to following them in practice on a daily basis. As Reno notes, this means that we will not likely see an end to the “culture wars” any time soon.

From a political standpoint, it also means that if the GOP decides that it is no longer willing to fight battles over “divisive social issues,” the Faithful will not blindly follow them down whatever more morally neutral path the party chooses to take. The Faithful know that there are things far more important than politics and aren’t afraid to prioritize them.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

HWX, with Peter Berkowitz

It’s the return of The Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX).   Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas and John Hinderaker of Power Line convene on a cold Minnesota night to discuss the big issues of the past week. These include:

                The weather (cold)
•        The election of Pope Francis and papal naming conventions 
               The recently concluded CPAC convention in DC 
               Rand Paul and illegal immigration
               Loon of the Week (a double shot of sequestration hysteria)
               This Week in Gatekeeping (there’s nothing I can do to reverse the acid treatment on your face,
          but it reminds me of a funny story)

We’re also joined by the great Peter Berkowitz.  He’s a distinguished political scientist and legal scholar, and author of the hot, controversial new book, Constitutional Conservatism: Liberty, Self-Government, and Political Moderation.  How will Conservatives win elections in the future?  Peter Berkowitz has the answer. 

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 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 a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

No Imagination When It Comes to Sequestration

It appears that apathy and indifference towards the devastating impact of sequestration is even prevalent among government workers who will bear the brunt of its catastrophic consequences. Demonstration Against Sequestration Has Reasons, but Few Rhymes:

On Wednesday, members of the American Federation of Government Employees will rally in downtown Chicago, scene of some of history's most storied labor protests. Their aim is to stop sequestration, the $85 billion in across-the-board cuts to the federal budget that took effect March 1.

For many workers, this turns out not to be the most rousing cause. The cuts roll out slowly, in early April for some agencies and programs but not until May for others. Most agencies aim to trim around the edges to avoid layoffs. Workers in some departments aren't in line for furloughs at all, and for others it might be just a few days.

"I'll be honest. People are saying 'you're giving me a day without pay? I'll take July 5,' " says Brent Barron, president of AFGE Local 648.

When you can’t get unionized government workers to bother to show up for a rally, you know you’re fighting a losing cause.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Obama's Gusher

Hardly a day goes by without coming across more evidence of the significant impact that America’s energy boom is having on the economy. Today, it comes from a WSJ article on how America’s cornucopia of oil and gas is Firing Up a Stronger Dollar:

The Department of Energy expects net oil imports to account for just 32% of consumption next year, down from a peak of 60%—of a larger amount—in 2005. And whereas a decade ago, companies poured money into natural-gas import terminals, there is now a hot debate on exports—regarding merits, not feasibility.

One beneficial effect of this is a narrower trade deficit. The cost of net imports of petroleum had widened steadily through the past decade, breaching 3% of gross domestic product annualized at the oil market's peak. This bill is now down to 1.7% of GDP.

But this is only the first-round effect. Cheap U.S. natural gas, with the U.S. wholesale price of about $3.70 per million British thermal units about a third of European prices and a fifth of those paid in Asia, forms the basis for an increase in exports of manufactured goods such as petrochemicals.

Altogether, Citi estimates reduced energy-import dependence and cheaper gas could squeeze the current-account deficit by 2.4 percentage points of GDP by 2020. All else equal, that would take 2012's deficit of 3.6% down to 1.2%, which would be the lowest since 1997.

The moderating effect of greater supply on energy prices is another important benefit to the economy. While it might not seem apparent yet, rising U.S. oil supply serves to cap global prices. Even if the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cuts its own output to support prices, the resulting spare capacity caps increases.

Meanwhile, BofA Merrill Lynch estimates the U.S. paid just $76 billion for its natural gas in 2012, a full $140 billion less than in 2008—a saving bigger than the payroll-tax cuts of 2011. And unlike the latter, this benefit looks set to stay for a while.

None but the most Panglossian progressive would pretend that the US economy is not still struggling to recover from the 2008 recession. Growth is anemic, we haven’t come close to replacing the number of jobs lost, and consumer confidence is fickle and unsteady. Can you imagine how much worse off we would be without the benefits brought about by the energy boom?

Therein lays one of the great ironies of President Obama’s tenure. The one undisputedly significant and positive contributor to economic growth during his administration is not only one that he has almost nothing to do with, but one that he actually came into office campaigning against (remember the mockery of “drill, baby drill”?). Lest there be any doubt as to the accuracy of the claim that President Obama has not contributed to the oil and gas boom consider this:

President Obama does a neat John D. Rockefeller imitation these days, taking credit for soaring domestic oil and gas production as if he planned it that way. Not quite. As a new Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports shows, "All of the increased [oil] production from 2007 to 2012 took place on non-federal lands."

The research outfit reports that thanks to the innovation of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling on private and state lands, the U.S. in fiscal 2012 produced 6.2 million barrels of oil daily, up from 5.1 million barrels as recently as fiscal 2007. Private industry's technological advances, operating under state regulation, increased U.S. production last year at the fastest rate in the history of the domestic industry, which drilled its first commercial well in 1859.

The story on federal lands is the opposite. The CRS study finds that federal oil production fell more than 23% from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2012 and is today below what it was in 2007. The federal share of total U.S. oil production has slid under Mr. Obama to 26% in fiscal 2012 from 31% in fiscal 2008.

The story is the same in natural gas, with overall production climbing 20% since fiscal 2007 even as "production on federal lands has remained static or declined each year over the same period." Production on non-federal lands grew 40% since 2007, while production on federal lands fell by a hard-to-believe 33%. The federal share of total natural gas production in 2007 was 27.8%. Today it's 15.5%.

This sharp drop in production on federal lands is the direct result of Obama Administration policies. They include the drilling moratorium imposed after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, followed by a limit on new drilling permits—the notorious "permitorium."

History may show that in some ways President Obama was one of the most fortuitous men to every sit in the Oval Office. Because when it comes to the US energy boom-and its beneficial impacts on the economy-he has struck it rich without even trying.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Open For Business?

Recently an issue has emerged on the local scene that’s generated a lot of attention. Despite the fact that it combines two of my interests-politics and beer-I’m frankly perplexed by the amount of passion swirling around it. I speak of proposals to change Minnesota’s existing laws that prohibit the sale of alcohol in stores on Sundays. The fact that you can imbibe all you want at your local watering hole, but aren’t allowed to pick up a six-pack at your local liquor store on a Sunday has some folks up in arms over the perceived injustice of it all.

To a certain extent, I’m sympathetic to these views. Minnesota’s laws regulating alcohol-mostly enacted after the repeal of Prohibition-do need to be reformed. It’s been a slow process with incremental steps, like the passage of “Surly bill” which allowed brewers to open tap rooms, being taken one at a time. This can be frustrating and I understand why people would like to have it move faster. I think it would be ideal if the legislature would just open up all the existing regulations on alcohol for a one-time all-encompassing overhaul. But that seems unlikely which means we’re going to have to continue to address these matters on a one off basis.

And I can appreciate the free market and local control arguments for Sunday opening. Why not let local communities decide if they want to allow liquor stores to be open on Sundays and then allow the individual businesses to decide if they want to open their doors or not? From a strictly libertarian perspective, it’s a difficult to argue against such an approach.

However, I also find many of the arguments for Sunday openings to be specious and in some cases even absurd. In the former category are claims that not being able to sell growlers on Sunday is hurting Minnesota’s craft brewers or that Minnesota is losing out on untold millions of dollars of sales tax from people who cross the border into Wisconsin to procure alcohol on Sundays. I think the impact of both claims are vastly overstated and have yet to see any solid evidence to support either. In the latter absurd category are the claims of victimhood embraced by some pro-Sunday opening folks who act as if their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are being violated by not being able to buy alcohol in Minnesota on a Sunday. My favorite in that category was this tweet:

Yes, that cry of distress was indeed uttered on March 3rd. This means that this gentleman only had TWELVE DAYS to buy whatever beer he might need to properly honor St. Patrick in Minnesota. I’m all for convenience and all that, but arguments such as this do not advance the Sunday opening cause.

The debate has also seemed very one sided from my perspective. I’ve heard a lot of arguments from those in favor of Sunday opening while rarely coming across any against. Part of this is likely a fear among liquor store owners that they will get tagged as being anti-consumer or selfish for not wanting to change the prohibition on Sunday alcohol sales. That concern is understandable and no business wants to be too involved in an issue that could potentially alienate a portion of their customers.

However, if the people of Minnesota-through their elected representatives-are going to change the regulations on Sunday opening, they should hear both sides of the issue and understand that while it might seem like a relatively clear cut choice there are implications and impacts that might not be easily foreseen.

The following is an argument against Sunday opening from a small business owner who wishes to remain anonymous:

I am not in favor of an abundance of government regulation. That said, I am strongly (as is virtually everyone I know in the business) against Sunday opening.

Since our store has been in business for forty-five years, we have a good perspective and records to lead us to believe Sunday opening would hurt small business. For many years we had to close our business, by law, at 8pm every night of the week. When the law changed to enable 10pm opening on Friday and Saturday nights, we tracked customer count and gross sales (with years and years of history). It turned out with four extra hours of business each week the customer count and gross sales remained virtually identical, but our payroll, utilities, insurance, and taxes increased, thereby reducing our profit. The Sam's Clubs, Costco’s, Cub Foods, Byerly's are already open and would not have to endure all the additional costs that small family owned wine and beer shops would. It should be noted that putting the family owned stores - who pay decent wages - out of business and replacing those stores with giant corporate chains that pay minimum wage or close to it may not be the best for our economy.

Another argument for protecting the small Minnesota busines...Our store is visited by an incredible amount of vineyard owners and specialty beer folk. The reasons these businesses like Minnesota so well is that we are not a grocery or big chain store state. Most consumers do not realize that they get a fantastic selection and variety in Minnesota. It should be noted that if the small shops are pushed aside your selection and service will suffer. Check out the stores in the Dakotas or Iowa. Looking for that awesome Napa Cabernet or the newest trendy IPA? Good luck! Grocery and jumbo chains are primarily interested in the top 100 SKUs.

One more thought, I have heard the argument that Sunday opening would increase the state's tax revenue. Even if I am wrong and there would be an increase in sales with the extra day, has anyone considered what might be hurt????? If you can get a bottle of wine from me on Sunday for $5 you may not visit your local restaurant where you would pay $15, therefore tripling the state's tax intake and tipping a restaurant employee that will be paying the state tax.

Food for thought.

In my view, that perspective has been mostly missing from the debate up to this point. It now looks increasingly unlikely that a bill to change Sunday opening will be considered during the current legislative session. However, it almost surely will in the future and when it does people should be exposed to the best arguments from both sides.

UPDATE: I probably did not make my views on the matter clear. As I mentioned, from a strictly libertarian viewpoint Sunday opening would be a slam dunk to support. However, I'm a conservative not a libertarian and I take a conservative viewpoint on the matter: why change unless there are compelling reasons to? If liquor stores were already allowed to open on Sundays and people wanted to close them, I'd be against it. But since the current state is that they're closed and the arguments for the damage that clsoing causes or the benefits to being open on Sundays aren't all that strong, I don't see why we should change the laws.

I also think that as conservatives we can't simply embrace free markets as the answer to everything. In Europe (at least in the smaller cities and towns in the Netherlands and Germany), stores usually close at 6pm on weekdays and are almost never open on Sundays. They don't do it for religious reason(at least not anymore) but because it benefits families and small businesses. And those are ends that all true conservatives should be able to support.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXX)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the knowledgeable folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who have the wisdom to help find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to add spice to any occasion.

Definition of sage:


1. An aromatic plant (Salvia officinalis) of the mint family, with grayish-green leaves that are used as a culinary herb, native to the Mediterranean.

2. A profoundly wise man.

Sage is not typically a word that one associates with beer unless perhaps one is speaking of another with a deep well of knowledge on the matter. However, the minty spice is featured front and center in our Beer of the Week which is Utah Sage Saison from Epic Brewing Company in Salt Lake City, Utah.

22oz brown bomber retails for $7.99. Craft paper label with simple green and white design.

STYLE: Saison


COLOR (0-2): Golden orange and somewhat clouded. 2

AROMA (0-2): Big bouquet of sage with pepper hits you upfront.2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color. Thick with plenty of volume and excellent lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): The taste is again heavy with sage and pepper which is balanced nicely with floral sweetness, citrus, and a little lemon tang. Malt flavors are mostly bready with earthy tones. Medium bodied with good carbonation and mouthfeel that’s on the watery side. Quite drinkable. This beer has a very complex flavor profile and there’s a lot going on here. For the most part it all really comes together nicely and creates a unique and delicious taste experience. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Sage and other flavors of spice follow through well. 2

OVERALL (0-6): A beer using sage as its most distinguishing flavor is definitely not something you see every day. And it’s easy to imagine that such an unusual mashup could go disastrously wrong. However, in the case of Utah Sage Saison the experiment turns out to be quite successful. There’s just the right amount of sage to infuse flavor without it overpowering everything else the beer has to offer, which is a lot. This is a unique beer that you be wise to explore if you have the opportunity. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17

AOTM: Will Many Be Saved?

Last minute notice for the agenda for this month's Argument of the Month:

Will Many Be Saved?

That's the question many are asking since the publishing of a book of the same name by Ralph Martin. It is also the question we will pose for debate this coming Tuesday March 12th. This has been the issue of heated debate on the internet between the Ralph Martin and Father Baron of "The Word on Fire". Come see our very own Father Echert debate John Zmirak, author of the newly published Bad Catholic's Guide to the Catechism and editor of The Bad Catholic's Bingo Hall.

Lent is a time for the contemplation of the four last things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell so what better time to debate this topic. The way one answers this question impacts his outlook on evangelization and the relevance of the Church's mission in the world. If everyone or nearly everyone is saved what is the point of evangelization and what is the point of baptism or of the rest of the sacraments. On the other hand, if the vast majority are not saved, why try to be Catholic? On the other hand, is a God who damns the vast majority of His creatures to eternal torment really plausible? Could he be loveable? Or might we dare to hope that he does not exist? What is the position of the Church on this issue and how does it impact what the church is calling, "The New Evagilization?"

Come find out on Tuesday March 12th when AOTM hosts a fire and brimstone debate!

Special AOTM Live Update From Rome!

AOTM will be getting live, on the ground coverage straight from the Vatican courtesy of Michael Matt, host of Remnant TV! and editor of Remnant Newspaper starting at 6:30pm. If you haven't heard, March 12 was announced as the start date for the conclave so there should be a lot to report. We've never done anything like this before and who knows when we will again so don't miss it.

The Night's Schedule

6:00 Social Hour and Appetizers
6:30 Live update from Rome!
7:00 Dinner
7:30 Debate
8:30 Dessert
8:45 Q&A

Argument of the Month
408 3rd Street North
South Saint Paul, MN

Monday, March 11, 2013

Electric Fairy Dust

The group “They Might Be Giants” has a children’s song called Electric Car:

Electric car on roads so dark
To change the end rewrite the start
Electric car so good, so far

Electric car on verdant green
Invent a turn invent a dream
Electric car the new machine

Let's take a ride in an electric car
To the west side in an electric car
How can you deny an electric car
Won't you take a ride with me
Come on and take a ride with me!!

Electric car beside the tree
Will past the dock will past the sea
Electric car roll silently

Electric car on roads so dark
To change the end rewrite the start
Electric car so good so far

Let's take a ride in an electric car
To the west side in an electric car
How can you deny an electric car
Won't you take a ride with me
Come on and take a ride with me!

(No diesel, steam, or gasoline)
Let's take a ride in an electric car
Happiness resides in an electric car
You can even drive an electric car
Won't you take a ride with me
Come on and take a ride with me!!

Let's take a ride in an electric car
To the west side in an electric car
How can you deny an electric car
Won't you take a ride with me
Come on and take a ride with me!!

While the promise of the electric car is easy to proclaim in song, delivering it in reality is not quite so simple. And as Bjorn Lomborg notes in today’s WSJ, when it comes to carbon emissions Green Cars Have a Dirty Little Secret:

If a typical electric car is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufacture means the car will actually have put more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles. Similarly, if the energy used to recharge the electric car comes mostly from coal-fired power plants, it will be responsible for the emission of almost 15 ounces of carbon-dioxide for every one of the 50,000 miles it is driven—three ounces more than a similar gas-powered car.

Even if the electric car is driven for 90,000 miles and the owner stays away from coal-powered electricity, the car will cause just 24% less carbon-dioxide emission than its gas-powered cousin. This is a far cry from "zero emissions." Over its entire lifetime, the electric car will be responsible for 8.7 tons of carbon dioxide less than the average conventional car.

Those 8.7 tons may sound like a considerable amount, but it's not. The current best estimate of the global warming damage of an extra ton of carbon-dioxide is about $5. This means an optimistic assessment of the avoided carbon-dioxide associated with an electric car will allow the owner to spare the world about $44 in climate damage. On the European emissions market, credit for 8.7 tons of carbon-dioxide costs $48.

Yet the U.S. federal government essentially subsidizes electric-car buyers with up to $7,500. In addition, more than $5.5 billion in federal grants and loans go directly to battery and electric-car manufacturers like California-based Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors. This is a very poor deal for taxpayers.

Given those facts, perhaps They Might Be Giants want to revise their lyrics in their paean to electric cars:

Won’t you get taken on a ride with me
Come and get taken on a ride with me!!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Two Guys from Italy

The report from the World Baseball Classic and Italy's stunning 6-5 victory over Mexico:

Italy was able to come back and tie the game in the fourth, when Twins catcher Drew Butera hit a two-run homer. Mexico, though, again responded in the fifth. Luis Cruz doubled in Eduardo Arredondo to make it 5-4. The game might have ended with that score, but Gonzalez had trouble on both a ball hit over his head by Nick Punto and Rizzo’s fly in the ninth.

That goes to show you what playing for pride of country can do for a couple of former banjo swinging stiffs.  Hey paisanos, that's a spicy meatball!

Then again, Butera was born in Evansville, IN and Punto in San Diego.   Maybe Mexico just sucks.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXIX)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the practical folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can take the measure of your mind to find the proper proportion of wine, whiskey, and beer you need for any occasion.

One of the many memorable scenes from the movie “This is Spinal Tap” is the band’s attempt to step back into history:

And it also lead to one of the movie’s many memorable quotes:

Derek Smalls: Can I raise a practical question at this point? Are we gonna do "Stonehenge" tomorrow?

David St. Hubbins: NO, we're not gonna fucking do "Stonehenge"!

That reference is still relevant today as is the continuing interest in the legacy that remains hewn into the living rocks of Stonehenge. An example is our featured beer this week, Hop Henge from Deschutes Brewery in Oregon:

Hop Henge Experimental IPA is our annual exercise in IBU escalation. An outrageous amount of Centennial and Cascade hops are added to each barrel, with a heavy dry-hop presence as well. It is dense and muscular, with a blend of crystal, pale and carastan malts creating an overall biscuity characteristic. It’s all hop, no apologies.

22oz brown bomber bottle retails for $4.99. Label features a memorable rendering of namesake historic site.

STYLE: Imperial IPA


COLOR (0-2): Light golden-orange and clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Tons of citrusy hops. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color, good volume, and leaves a nice trace of lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Rush of floral citrus hops upfront followed by a sweet sugary flavors and then by bready caramel malts. Mouthfeel is smooth and the finish is dry. While the alcohol is noticeable, it’s not overpowering and it’s surprisingly drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): The bitterness and heat combine to produce lasting flavors to savor. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Hop Henge is a big beer whose construction is almost impressive as the famous rock structures from which it derives its name. It delivers tons of hoppy flavors while not being too sharp around the edges. An excellent beer and also an excellent bargain at $4.99 a pop. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17