Saturday, June 29, 2013

HWX, with Helen Smith

It's a Saturday afternoon special edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX). John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas convene to discuss the BIG issues of the week. And for a week like this, it's fortuitous to have as your hosts a Harvard Law graduate and a guy that's seen the Paper Chase about a dozen times (Speak louder, Mr. Hart! Fill the room with your intelligence!). 

Topics addressed:

* Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act

* Supreme Court decision on California's Proposition 8

* Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act

* Immigration bill passing US Senate

* The trial of George Zimmerman

 We are also joined by forensic psychologist Helen Smith, to discuss her fascinating new book Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters.

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.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXXIX)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the earthy folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you harvest a bumper crop of wine, whiskey, and beer.

The featured beer this week comes from Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, Missouri. 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer:

With roots in two of today's most popular brewing styles, 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer is the result of careful cultivation by our brewers and cellarmen. Their efforts to craft a hybrid yielded a bumper crop of flavor; delightfully distinctive ale with the aroma of an IPA and the refreshing taste of a wheat beer.

Six-pack of 12oz bottles sells for $8.99. The label has a retro look with an antique tractor (Farmall?) hauling a might load of hops in front of a sunburst background.

STYLE: Wheat Ale


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

AROMA (0-2): Lemony-citrus with yeast and a touch of clove. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color. Not much volume and doesn’t leave much of a trace. 1

TASTE (0-5): Largely follows the smell with subdued flavors of lemon, wheat, and hints of sweet and spice. The flavors aren’t particularly hoppy nor particularly wheaty, but they blend nicely for a pleasant if understated taste experience. Light to medium body with a thin, watery mouthfeel. Very drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Slightly bitter and lasting. 2

OVERALL (0-6): 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat is a hybrid beer where neither the hoppy or wheat flavors predominate. Instead they come together to create a unique taste that’s well suited to summer drinking. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Thursday, June 27, 2013

World Turned Upside Down

Walter Russell Mead writes that while the original "Population Bomb" turned out to be a dud, the actions taken in response will leave many countries (including the US) singing a new tune called The Demographic Blues:

But if the Population Bomb was one of the many impending disasters that panicked the establishment without actually happening, the widespread unwavering faith in a world of rapid, unstoppable population growth is turning out to be a very expensive mistake. The demographic assumptions behind the population panic were deeply built into the core assumptions of the modern state.

Sixty years ago, it was hard to find people who doubted that each generation would be larger than the last. That led to some ideas about how to pay for social programs, and those assumptions are still hardwired into the structure of our public pension and entitlement programs. Whether you look at national programs like Social Security and Medicare, or you look at state and city pension plans or the pension plans of many private companies, the basic ideas that led Paul Ehrlich to predict a crisis of overpopulation still drive our old-age retirement system today.

But the demographic transition through which America and many other world societies are passing is bigger and more complicated than the deceleration, and in some cases the reversal, of population growth. To understand the adjustments we need to make, it’s important to take a number of factors into account. The size of the population is changing, its age distribution is changing, and its relationship to the workforce is changing in ways that are shaking the foundations of our social system.

Part of the population is in fact exploding; it’s just from a financial point of view the wrong part. Ehrlich expected the youthful population to lead the explosion. Actually, in many countries around the world, it is the elderly population that is growing most vigorously. It’s a combination of two factors: life expectancy continues to increase, and the population cohort now in its sixties is the Baby Boom segment born in the years after World War II, when Europe, North America and Japan were basking in a wave of prosperity.

Meanwhile, the size of the workforce that needs to pay in the taxes or otherwise support the transfer payments to older people is turning out to be much smaller than the architects of our social system expected. The Baby Boom didn’t have enough children, so in many countries the successor generations are now smaller than their parents’ generation. It’s most marked in China, where the one child policy was the most draconian population control measure since Pharaoh ordered the extermination of baby Hebrew boys, but in many countries we now see exploding numbers of elderly people resting on a smaller base.

The old population model looked something like an Egyptian pyramid, with a very broad base rising to a small peak. Today’s populations look a little more like a Russian cathedral with an onion shaped dome. Higher retirement and elder-care costs are being handed off to a smaller group of payers.

Something else is also at work: because it now takes many more years to navigate the educational system, more and more young people are out of the workforce for long periods of time. A hundred years ago the majority of Americans went to work in their teens; today many are in grad school until they turn 30. Add this to the reality that life expectancy has soared while the retirement age has risen slowly if at all, and it’s clear that there are more and more people out of work whose expenses need to be financed by the shrinking pool of people in the labor force.

The fact that countries in Western Europe and Japan, South Korea, and yes China are facing (or will soon have to face) even worse demographic challenges should provide scant comfort to Americans. The shifting age distribution is a problem that few politicians from either party are willing to seriously talk about addressing, but it's one that we and our children will feel the consequences of in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Do You See What I See?

Today turned out to be a banner day for local politics on my Twitter feed. And the incident that sparked all the fun is just the latest example of the promise and perils of social media.

Until redistricting in 2010, Ryan Winkler was my state representative in the Minnesota Legislature. Since Representative Winkler was a Democrat he and I agreed on few political few issues. And Winkler was prone to engage in hyperbole and rhetoric that cast dispersions on anyone not enlightened enough to share his progressive views. So during the last few years, I’ve engaged in more than a few debates with him on Twitter as have a number of other local conservatives (at least the ones he didn’t block).

After this morning’s Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act (VRA), Winkler took to Twitter to weigh in with his reaction:

(screenshot courtesy of Tea Party News Network)

It didn’t take long for local folks to react to Winkler’s offensive reaction:

I too wasn’t shocked by Winkler’s comments when I passed them:

Meanwhile, Winkler must have realized he had gone too far and started to backtrack:

The classic non-apology apology, “I’m sorry if you were offended by what I said.”

Then Winkler deleted his original tweet and might have been able to control the damage if he had not violated the first rule of holes:

Now the real fun began as the story started getting traction nationally:

The floodgates were opened at that point. There are just a few of my favorite among the many tweets on the matter:

Those of you who follow conservative media no doubt recognize many of those names. But it wasn’t just limited to conservatives.

When national leaders from your own party are distancing themselves from you it’s not a good sign.

The story also appeared on Drudge and in many other outlets such as the Washington Times. It was amazing to watch how fast the story exploded and how quickly Winkler had to walk back his remarks. It’s still unclear if this incident will have any lasting damage on his future future political ambtions. For now, I’m just happy to see the whole country get to see the same Ryan Winkler that I have for years.

(A good recap on The Late Debate page.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Common Sense Takes Off

One of the many on-going frustrations for regular air travelers have been the rules regulating the use of electronic devices. The rules often seem capricious and arbitrary especially when there is little evidence that electronic devices have any impact on aircraft flight systems. Are you really asking me to believe that turning on my Kindle while we taxi to takeoff is going to create a safety risk? This has led to widespread disregard for the rules among passengers and forced airline personnel into the uncomfortable position of being enforcers of the unpopular regulations.

A story in today’s WSJ brings welcome news that rays of common sense are finally breaking the clouds on this matter. Wi-Fi at Takeoff? Expect Delays:

The draft report prepared for the Federal Aviation Administration essentially concludes that easing the current ban on electronics under 10,000 feet is overdue—from a scientific as well as a common-sense standpoint.

But it envisions what is likely to be months of stepped-up testing to identify individual aircraft models most vulnerable to potential electromagnetic interference from personal electronics in the cabin. The report doesn't sketch out a specific timeline for easing current in-flight restrictions affecting devices.

Once the FAA opts for new rules, according to the report, the move will require additional FAA safety assessments, crew training, broad public education efforts and closer coordination with foreign regulators, so that U.S. rules basically track those in other countries.

The report's conclusions could change before it is due to be delivered to the agency in September, and the FAA may opt to amend or slow down implementation of recommended changes. But at this point, the panel appears to agree that in most cases, safety risks are "small due to the number of redundant systems" found on most planes.

That view is shared widely by experts outside the panel. "The systems we have out there are very safe" in preventing interference with critical aircraft navigation or flight-control systems, according to Kent Statler, who heads up the commercial business for Rockwell Collins Inc. "I have little concern" about use of Wi-Fi devices in the cockpit or the cabin as long as aircraft operating systems "are designed correctly," Mr. Statler said. "It's the most difficult test to get through," he added, before a new jet is certified to carry passengers.

The FAA, which previously indicated it was eagerly awaiting the final recommendations and would act on them, last week said "we will wait for the group to finish its work before we determine next steps."

Taken together, the draft spells out a phased approach to easing the current ban against using portable electronics during taxi, takeoff and landing. Without specifying which devices should be permitted or precisely when, the document repeatedly urges expanded uses of onboard gadgets to bring FAA rules into sync with the latest scientific data and evolving behavior of travelers.

The draft doesn't include recommendations affecting the U.S. ban on cellphones, because the FAA didn't ask the advisory panel for suggestions in that area.

Given that these are federal government regulations, we can expect that the process of easing them will not be a quick one. But the fact that the FAA is going to address them is encouraging no matter how long it takes to see changes on the ground. We’ll take whatever we can get whenever we can get it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Will Get Fooled Again

The city of Detroit is broke. Flat broke, busted, bankrupt. The mayor is walking around naked wearing nothing but a barrel. In order to alleviate their fiscal distress the city is considering resorting to extreme measures such as auctioning off works from the city’s art museums. They’re simply not enough money to pay the city’s existing and future obligations and in order to get out this mess the pain of austerity is going to have to be shared by all in Detroit.

Well, not quite all. Plans unveiled for $650M Red Wings arena, entertainment district in Detroit:

Calling it a “starting point,” plans for a $650 million Red Wings hockey arena and entertainment district are being unveiled Wednesday before the city’s development arm.

The plan by Olympia Development, which officials say would be supported by 56 percent in private money and 44 percent in public funding, features an 18,000-seat arena along Woodard Avenue just north of the Fox Theatre between Interstate 75 and Temple Street.

More details are emerging at a special board meeting of the Downtown Development Authority Wednesday. The News already has reported that the DDA is considering making an annual grant of nearly $13 million for the project.

Under the concept proposed by Ilitch Holdings, the new hockey arena or multipurpose events center would anchor a 35-acre downtown district featuring sports, entertainment, stores and housing near the Ilitch family’s company headquarters in the restored Fox Theatre on Woodward Avenue and nearby Comerica Park, the home built for Mike Ilitch’s Detroit Tigers.

The $12.8 million comes from school taxes collected by the Downtown Development Authority. This revenue stream, which could vary each year depending on the economy, would pay for bonds that would be used to finance construction.

No matter where the “public funding” comes from (city, county, state, etc.) the idea that Detroit is even considering chipping in so that the Red Wings’ owner can get a new arena (and more) while the city and its residents are suffering through the agonizing throes of bankruptcy is absurd. If we can’t draw a line and stop the madness of publicly subsiding sports stadiums for private owners here then we might as well just throw in the towel and give up hope of having a sane and reasonable civic society.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXXVIII)

A special Father’s Day themed edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the family friendly folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to honor your father the way God intended.

Every year around this time you see articles about Father’s Day gift ideas or ads touting the latest and greatest gadgets for dad. All of this is completely unnecessary. What does really want for Father’s Day? A couple of his favorite beverages, some red meat, and a nap. We’re not complicated creatures.

If your dad’s favorite beverages are craft beers and you haven’t yet procured any to celebrate the big day don’t fret. Our featured beer this week is one that any red-blooded, craft beer loving father would be happy to savor on Father’s Day.

Tallgrass Brewing from Kansas is fast becoming one of my favorites as they continue to crank out quality brews. Ethos IPA:

The beer foretold in legend. Six types of hops are gathered from the corners of the world to make this legendary brew. This is no earthly IPA. They will write ballads, build monuments, paint caves, and sacrifice goats to this beer. They will drink Ethos and dance to shake the heavens. The aroma is the harbinger of the tastes to come. Big, bright, and beautiful, this beer exceeds all expectations and grants wishes. Twice dry-hopped and brewed with the aid of a dark alliance from another realm, this beer bestows upon you all the complexity of the hops' flavors without overwhelming your senses. Ethos IPA is a gift to you, beer mortals. Drink it and fulfill your destiny.

Can features a mystical looking cave drawing with a brown stone background. Four-pack of 16oz cans is now on special at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits for $7.49. And two other top notch Tallgrass offerings Halcyon Wheat and 8 Bit Pale Ale are a mere $6.49 for a four-pack.



COLOR (0-2): Golden brown and cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2): Grapefruit, pine, and honey to give you a little sumthin’ sweet. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color, dense and thick. Good retention. 2

TASTE (0-5): Much like the aroma with a big wallop of assertive hop flavors with grapefruit, pine, and mango followed by caramel malt sweetness and a bit of spice. You can feel the heat-it seems boozier than 6.8%-, but it doesn’t distract from the taste. Well carbonated with a creamy mouthfeel and dry finish. Medium-bodied and drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Flavors transform and slowly fade out in a delicious manner. 2

OVERALL (0-6): This is an excellent beer. It gives you the big hop flavors that you would expect, but they aren’t overdone and there’s a solid malt component which makes for a far more balanced and complex beer. And at $7.49 for a four pack it delivers a lot of bang for your buck. We know that you can’t put a price on how much you appreciate your dad, but he’d be happy to know that you got a good deal along the way. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXXVII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the playful folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to suit your sport of choice.

Although summer doesn’t officially start for another week or so, its unofficial beginning is commonly associated with the turning of the calendar to June. While the first few weeks of June haven’t been especially summer-like in these parts, we’ll take whatever shreds of summer we can get at this point and so it’s time at last to our attention to beers suited to the season.

We start with a seasonal offering from Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing called Rolle Bolle:

A delightful summer ale for easy sipping and a classic Belgian yard game for easy enjoyment, Rolle Bolle is how we roll. Brewed with monk fruit and soursop, this beer pours a brilliant blonde, with a fluffy, white head. Earthy and tropical tones carry the aroma and the taste follows accordingly. Rolle Bolle’s hint of tartness is backed with the citrus bite of Cascade and Centennial hops. Oats add some creaminess to the mouthfeel, and it finishes dry and clean. Time to get in the yard, crack a bottle and start rolling.

If like me you’re wondering exactly what rolle bolle the sport looks like here’s a glimpse:

Six-pack of 12oz bottles goes for $8.99. Standard New Belgium label design with rendering of namesake sport.

STYLE: Belgian Pale Ale


COLOR (0-2): Pale gold and clear. 1

AROMA (0-2): Bready with a nice zesty mango twist. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color, decent volume, good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Grainy malts at the front followed by grassy hops and citrusy flavors of lemon and tangerine. A little bit of peppery spice too. Well carbonated with a clean, crisp finish. Mouthfeel is watery and it has medium body. Extremely drinkable and refreshing. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Nice combination of bitter and fruity follow through. 2

OVERALL (0-6): While it doesn’t have the yeasty funkiness or spicy kick that you would expect with a Belgian pale ale this is a solid summer offering. Rolle Bolle wets the whistle well with fruit flavors that are tasty while understated. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Come As You Are

At First Thoughts, Collin Garbarino makes A Plea for Bathrobes:

But it’s not just about comfort. Church is a place where you can be yourself. We encourage people to be “authentic.” We tell people, “Come as you are!” What people hear is, “Tasteful clothing is optional!” These days it’s important for everyone to be an individual who’s authentic, so it’s very important for us all to come to church in flip-flops and shorts. We want to show off our individual style that’s just like everyone else’s. And really shorts and flip-flops are so authentic. I mean, really, like, that’s who I am. I wear these to the office everyday. Don’t you?

But we mean it when we tell people to come as they are. The gospel tells us that we can’t clean ourselves up. God won’t be fooled by my bowtie. I’ll still be a mess no matter what I’m wearing. I suppose that there’s a gospel imperative for chucking the dress code. Come as you are. But wait; there’s more to the gospel.

The gospel also says that Christ doesn’t leave us as we are. He clothes us in his own righteousness. I think we can do something with this. I propose an addition to the liturgy (for my Baptist brothers, that’s a fancy word for “order of service”).

When a man or woman enters the church building dressed for a day at the beach or perhaps the gym, let us be ready. I propose that every congregation have white bathrobes at hand. You “came as you are” with bare shoulders or exposed thighs (I’m talking to men too). Your sins exposed for all to see (too many Oreos, tanning bed, body piercings, etc.). In order to symbolize being clothed with the righteousness of Christ, we will cover you with a spotless bathrobe. When we, sinners, come to Christ, he doesn’t leave us in our sins. Shouldn’t we do likewise for our brothers and sisters who come to church dressed in tank tops? After all, didn’t Christ say, “I was naked and you clothed me.” It’s our Christian duty to help. It’s our Christian duty to hand them a bathrobe.

And remember, Church should be comfortable. Nothing’s more cozy than a fluffy white bathrobe.

I’m game for anything that would shame the shorts and flip flops at church crew or at least cover their shame.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Less Said...

Ann from Golden Valley e-mails with a follow up to my post on revealing personal information at checkups for your children:

Came across your story and noted its irony with my 2 children the week after your article came out.

Add this to your blog:

I took my 13 year old in for xrays to check for a broken hand.

After the nurse noted my child’s height, weight & reason for coming in, the nurse then turned to my 13 year old to ask, "Does anyone in your home smoke or are you exposed to second hand smoke?"

Not sure what that has to do with a broken hand.

I've also got a 15 month old.

They ask the following at each and every well-check (this is just a few questions out of about 20):

Who does the child live with?

What language(s) does your family speak?

Do you breastfeed? How often? (This question includes how many minutes on EACH breast!)

How often does your child eat meals? Snacks?

Does your car seat face forward or back?

What kind of water does your home have (city, well, etc)?

Note that the nurse was stumped on how to enter into the data system that my child both breastfeeds AND drinks water from a sippy cup.

I told my doctor I don't want my baby to have a lead test as we live in a home built after 1978.

She said that doesn't matter as lead could be in toys being that many are manufactured in China and may contain traces of lead.

I asked the doctor how many that have taken the test actually come back with lead results.

"None," she said.

By the way, if you opt to have your child tested for lead, some insurance companies will 'gift' you a $50 Target gift card & sent straight to your home.

Just their way of saying, "Thanks" for revealing your information on personal hellcare....oh, I mean, healthcare.

Again, it's easy to brush this all of as harmless data collection that only those on the paranoid fringe would be concerned with. But then you remember that the one of the government agencies with a significant role in implementing Obamacare is the IRS. And when it comes to the IRS it isn't a matter of there merely being a potential for abuse, they already have a proven track record of abusing their power. Keep quiet and carry on.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Two to Tango

When evaluating the various “scandals” dominating the news cycle these todays it’s important to be able to differentiate between them and define what is truly scandalous and what is not. In one way or another, they all involve two key elements:

1. Government power-This is the authority that we’ve given to the government-either implicitly or explicitly-to collect data, conduct investigations, grant approvals, etc.

2. Abuse of said power (self-explanatory)

All but the most delusional of Democrats now admit that there was some level of abuse of power in the IRS case. It remains unclear whether the abuse was merely the conduct of low level “operatives” in Cincinnati, sanctioned by higher ups in the IRS in DC, or even at the direction of person or persons within the Obama Administration. But that abuses of power did occur is abundantly clear.

This is not the case with anything we’ve learned so far about the NSA activities. There’s no doubt that the NSA has a great deal of power to collect data and monitor communications. Whether this power has been granted to them without the proper amount of public debate, oversight, and transparency is open to argument. As is the question of whether the government really needs that power to prevent acts of terrorism. We should by all means be willing to discuss and debate the merits of both sides on these matters.

But we should conflate the potential for abuse with abuse itself. Nothing that has emerged so far indicates that the NSA abused its power or used the data it collected for purposes other than to prevent terrorist acts. Until evidence of abuse of power is presented we should not try to lump the NSA controversy in with the ISR story. Doing so only distracts from the real heart of the former which is a debate about how much power the government should have to protect us from terrorist enemies and diminishes the importance of the latter which is a stunning story about government power being abused to punish political enemies. One is about policies-right or wrong-while one is about people acting wrongly on behalf of the government and others being wronged as a result.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

HWX, Stood Up Edition

The Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) returns for another special Friday night broadcast.  John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters LIbertas discussing all the news that's fit to discuss, including:
*  the newest freshly minted Obama scandals of the day, revelations of massive government Internet  and post office surveillance
*  the meaning of a 'right to privacy' in modern American society
*  the uncomfortable clash between increasing government control of our lives and increasing government abuse of power
*  Rep. Michele Bachmann's announcement that she won't be running for re-election
*  Loon of the Week:  Ivy Leaguer Michael Eric Dyson 
*  This Week in Gatekeeping:  New York Times Bible bloopers
We are also not joined by guest and former Wall Street Journal editor Ray Sokolov, author of the new book Steal the Menu: A Memoir of 40 Years in Food, nor by Listener-Member of the Week, the great Patrick Gibbs.  Though we do name check them extensively and wonder what it might have been like to have them on the air with us.
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.

Friday, June 07, 2013

It All Depends On Whose Phone Is Being Tapped

Of all the current “scandals” that are currently entangling the Obama Administration the latest revelations about the extent of NSA monitoring and data-mining of phone and internet records is by far the least disturbing. In fact, the only real scandal is here is how the media continues to publicize leaks that endanger national security and damage efforts to prevent terrorism.

An editorial in today’s WSJ explained that instead of decrying the potential violations and abuse of privacy that such programs could lead to we should say Thank You for Data-Mining:

The real danger from this leak is the potential political overreaction. The NSA is collecting less information than appears on a monthly phone bill (no names), but Americans would worry less about the government spying on them if, for example, the Justice Department wasn't secretly spying on the Associated Press and Fox News. Or if the IRS wasn't targeting White House critics. Or if the Administration in general showed a higher regard for the law when it conflicts with its policy preferences.

The liberals who spent the Bush years warning about a knock on the door at least have the virtue of consistency, if not the Republicans who are now depicting the NSA program as some J. Edgar Hoover-Bill Moyers operation to target domestic enemies. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has already introduced the Fourth Amendment Restoration Act of 2013. Yet surveillance is more critical than ever to stopping terror attacks now that Mr. Obama has all but abolished extended interrogation and military detention and invited Congress to limit drone strikes.

Amid many real abuses of power, the political temptation will be to tie data-mining into a narrative about a government out of control. Such opportunism can only weaken our counterterror defenses and endanger the country.

One of the hallmarks of good character when it comes to politicians and pundits is consistency in their views. So if you supported NSA data-mining in 2006 under the Bush Administration you should also support similar efforts in 2013 under the Obama Administration. So far, I’m encouraged by the response in this area by the likes of the Wall Street Journal and conservative talk show hosts such as Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt who all come out in defense of the NSA monitoring under Obama just as they did when it was being done under Bush.

Likewise, I have to tip my hat to people like Glenn Greenwald (damaging leak offense notwithstanding) for being consistent in their opposition to such practices no matter who is power. While there may not be any real scandal here, it should at least open the eyes of progressives who bought President Obama’s campaign promises about how he would not be like Bush when it came to the War on Terror hook, line, and sinker. With Gitmo still open for business, drone strikes expanded, and the NSA mining away they can no longer pretend that these promises were anything more than platitudes to secure their vote.

Conservatives meanwhile should focus on the real examples of government abuse under President Obama like the way that the power of the IRS, EPA, and other government agencies has been used to target and intimidate groups and individuals solely based on their political views. That is where the truly scandalous actions took place.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

They're Not the Kinda Guys Who Write Letters

Here's an after program shot from last week's AM1280 The Patriot's Taking Back the Tundra event with Hugh Hewitt and some of the best looking male Minnesota conservative bloggers between forty and six (an admittedly narrow demographic sliver).

From left to right: Brad Carlson, Mitch Berg, yours truly, Scott Johnson, James Lileks, Ralphie himself, John Hinderaker, Brian "No Jacket Required" Ward, Ed Morrissey, and King Banaian.

It was great to see Hugh and the old (literally) NARN gang again. It sounds like Hugh will be back in town for the Minnesota State Fair so hopefully that will provide another opportunity to get the NARN band back together.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


My wife took our six-year-old son to the doctor for his annual checkup. She reports that such visits have become less about the health of the particular child and more about questions to determine whether parents are complying with government approved methods of child rearing. These questions included, but were not limited to:

- How often do you eat at fast food restaurants?

- Do you always use a seatbelt?

- Do you always wear a helmet when riding a bike?

- Does anyone in the household smoke?

- What extra-circular activities does your child participate in?

Answers to these questions were dutifully noted and recorded. My wife was assured that such information would be used for research purposes only and would not be in any way linked to our child. Well, unless maybe some “rogue” low level operatives in a Midwest branch office of the government bureaucracy collecting such data decided entirely on their own volition to abuse their access to such information for untoward purposes.

Therein lays the real damage caused by the IRS scandal. It’s a violation of the trust between citizens and their government. Such a breach makes you start to wonder whether any information provided to the government (either voluntarily or legally required) might be at some point be used against you.

Previously, it might be easy to dismiss such concerns as paranoid thoughts of extremist fringe groups. Ordinary Americans would understand that such information was only being collected by the government to improve the health, safety, and living conditions of is citizens and that it would never be used to infringe upon our basic liberties and freedoms.

You no longer have to be paranoid to come to the conclusion that the view of “the less the government knows about me the better” is a rational and reasonable to approach to take when it comes to our relationship with the state.

UPDATE--Robert from Michigan e-mails to file a report:

You commentary today reminded me of some minor changes that have taken place since I was a six-year old. I particularly remember vacation trips we took as a family to the Upper Peninsula, and the answers given had we been subject to an invasive medical questions. You have to remember it took two days to get from Dearborn to Houghton before interstates and the Mackinaw Bridge.

Did you eat at fast food places? Of course not. Mom and Dad liked a beer with their meal, so we'd stop at a roadhouse. They'd eat inside and bring us burgers, fries, cokes, etc., things we never got at home to eat to eat outside.

Wear a seatbelt? Sorry, the 48' Plymouth didn't come with them.

Smoking? Well, Mom always drove, my three siblings sat in back, and I was next to Dad in front. The smoke from his Camels usually went out the side vent, and being in front, I didn't have to worry about Copenhagen blowback when he spit out the passenger window. Being a considerate husband, he would even find time to pour a little nip in a paper cup so that Mom was able to be refreshed during a full day of driving. I guess folks were a little tougher back then.

As far as wearing a helmet when riding a bike, get real. We didn't wear one for hockey, or when we played tackle football in one of the open fields near the house.

Mom would probably say that the kids did whatever they wanted outside of school. She would only be concerned when we didn't bring a particular individual to the house. Might be something to worry about there.

So, by today's standards, my parents would have been arrested for neglect and abuse. We still laugh about how my father arranged for my brother to be put into a holding cell at a local precinct house when he skipped out of his kindergarten. He never was truant again.

The neglect and abuse that Robert and his siblings were subjected to clearly caused permanent and lasting damage. The statute of limitations governing these crimes against the community has no doubt long passed, but his testimony in these matters will become part of his permanent record.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Playing It Safe

One of the attributes that has long defined and distinguished the US economy is its dynamism. This dynamism involved things like people coming up with innovative ideas, new companies starting up to support those ideas, and people being willing to move to new careers and new geographies. It helped drive economic growth and made America an attractive destination for entrepreneurs from around the world.

A front page story in today’s WSJ raised concerns that America may be losing its dynamic edge. Risk-Averse Culture Infects U.S. Workers, Entrepreneurs:

Three long-running trends suggest the U.S. economy has turned soft on risk: Companies add jobs more slowly, even in good times. Investors put less money into new ventures. And, more broadly, Americans start fewer businesses and are less inclined to change jobs or move for new opportunities.

The changes reflect broader, more permanent shifts, including an aging population and the new dominance of large corporations in many industries. They also may help explain the increasingly sluggish economic recoveries after the past three recessions, experts said.

A few other nuggets from the article:

The problem with fewer Americans starting businesses is that there are fewer chances for the next Amazon or Wal-Mart—or even the successful small- or medium-size business.

"It just means that there are fewer new companies that are creating jobs, fewer new companies that are competing for workers," said Lina Khan, an economist who has studied the decline in entrepreneurship for the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank. "Traditionally being able to start your own business has been a path to upward mobility."

That math here is pretty simple. For every thousand companies that start up, only X number are going to be an Amazon or Wal-Mart. Y number are going to successful mid-sized businesses and Z number are going to successful small-sized businesses. While there is no exact formula for how this works it’s clear that if instead of one thousand startups you only have five hundred, it’s going to impact the results.

And the point about upward mobility highlights that this is an issue that should concern Americans of all political stripes.

For the first time since such records have been kept, the Census found in 2008 that more Americans worked for big businesses—those with at least 500 workers—than small ones. The trend has continued since.

For all the paeans to small business from both Republicans and Democrats the reality is that economic, regulatory, and tax policies are more likely to favor existing big business than small business.

The work of running family businesses has also scared off younger generations, said Henry Hutcheson, president of Family Business USA, which advises these businesses.

"The lure and ease of joining a blue chip firm, where you get a good job and a decent salary, just seems to be overwhelming," he said. "People are saying, 'I can go take over my dad's garden center and I can go run this thing and work seven days a week and be there from dawn until dusk, or I can go manage a Home Depot and they're going to pay me $150,000 and I'll get weekends and vacation.' "

While running your own business and being your own boss still has its obvious appeals, I can understand why fewer and fewer Americans are taking the plunge. In addition to the extra risk and effort involved, you also make yourself vulnerable to whims and vagaries imposed by our elected officials. Taxes may go up. Minimum wage requirements may be raised. New regulations may be imposed. And unlike your brethren in big business, you’re likely going to have very little ability to have a real impact on influencing the policies that may make or break you.

This trend also explains why Mitt Romney’s pitch to help unleash America’s entrepreneurial animal spirits and the GOP’s mockery of President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” line (especially at the RNC) didn’t catch on with most voters. They aren’t entrepreneurs and don’t really want to be. They’re happy working for large corporations and letting these companies (along with the government) make decisions for them when it comes to things like health insurance, retirement planning, and paying taxes. They’re willing to trade control of these responsibilities in exchange for a regular paycheck and guaranteed benefits. Republicans are going to have come up with a new message that appeals to the changing attitudes that Americans have about economic risk taking.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Go North Beer Fan

The Twin Cities isn’t the only place in Minnesota that’s witnessed a craft beer boom of late. Good article at on how the growth of craft breweries on the North Shore is causing beer lovers to plan the Duluth beer-cations:

At Thirsty Pagan Brewing in Superior, Wis., head brewer Allyson Rolph said the brewpub already attracts its share of out-of-towners. “We’re starting to see a lot more of the beer tourism, people coming up here from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee, Chicago,” she said over a pint at Bent Paddle Brewing Co. — Duluth’s newest brewery and taproom.

From the boutique, Belgian-leaning Blacklist Brewing and Borealis Fermentery (in Knife River, Minn.) to Irish bars/brewpubs Carmody and Dubh Linn, North Coast beer is diversifying. Even aesthetically, the shiny new Canal Park offers a contrasting feel to Thirsty Pagan’s small-town charm.

Just north of Two Harbors, Minn., Clint and Jamie MacFarlane of Castle Danger Brewery have perhaps the state’s most serene brewery. The couple’s toolshed of a brewhouse sits on a scenic 40-acre lakefront plot where they also run a 12-cabin resort. The resort has been in Jamie’s family since the 1930s and next year they plan to add a larger brewery/taproom in downtown Two Harbors.

But beer communities aren’t built in a day. Lake Superior Brewing Co. and Fitger’s have been pushing craft beer in Duluth since the mid-’90s. “I basically cut my teeth on those two breweries’ beers,” said Bryon Tonnis of Bent Paddle, which opened two weeks ago with a pair of enjoyable year-round ales.

“We owe them a big debt of gratitude,” said Bent Paddle co-founder Colin Mullen.

As do all craft beer fans who can now include beer among the many reasons for heading up to the North Shore this summer.