Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Fog of War

Amusing moment from CSPAN's coverage of the National Book Festival last week.  Rick Atkinson was doing some Q&A after his presentation of his new WWII book, 'The Guns At Last Light'.   An earnest middle-aged man asked a question about the use of oral histories as source material for Atkinson's work. From the way he asked it, you can tell the real intent of the question was to bask in the glow of Atkinson's forthcoming acclaim for this man's selfless work in interviewing old vets before they pass on to that final big armistice signing in the sky.  These days anything concerning veterans, especially old veterans, is the subject of automatic, universal praise.  So, of course, WWII pop historian Rick Atkinson would join the chorus.  Right?

Wrong.  It seems Atkinson was more in the mood to give an honest answer rather than the easy, happy one.  The clip is here.  (And not yet embeddable.  Come on CSPAN, I want more for my lack of paying you any money for using your product!)

Not only does Atkinson tell this guy that his life's work is probably inaccurate because you can't trust 70 year old memories, but that it was also pointless because the US Army already did complete oral histories immediately following battles in WWII.   And Atkinson wraps up with "as much as I admire what you do".  You even get a bonus 2-shot of the disillusioned questioner during Atkinson's answer.  Brutal stuff, but as someone once said, asking questions about war can be hell.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXXXV)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the optimistic folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to make sure your glass is half full.

The other night I had a chance to attend a beer tasting which was sponsored in part by Spiegelau, which is owned by renowned wine glass company Riedel and produces some of the best beer glasses that money can buy. The main message of the event was that in order to bring out the best in a beer you need to use the right glass. While I was aware that proper glassware was important, I never realized just how much it mattered until we did side by comparisons with lagers, wheat beers, IPAs, and stouts in glasses designed for each particular style and in a standard beer glass. The differences in appearance, aroma, and taste were striking and in some cases it was almost like you were drinking an entirely different beer.

Three key takeaways from the tasting comparison:

1. Never drink out of the bottle or can
2. Use a proper glass for the beer
3. ALWAYS rinse out the glass before you pour the beer

By far the most unusual glass that we tried was the 19 Ounce IPA Glass. This glass was designed in collaboration with Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada, two guys who know a thing or two about tasty IPAs. Its shape is a little unusual, but trust me it brings out the best in the style.

And it would the best way to enjoy the latest in Summit Brewing’s Unchained Series, Batch 13 Another IPA:

The Summit Unchained Series gives our brewers the freedom to make any brew they can dream up. So for Batch 13, what does brewer Mike Lundell choose? Another IPA. No really, that’s the name. With herbal hops, nutty malt flavor, a fruity nose, and a nice, subtle complexity. So why order another IPA when you can have Another IPA?

Six twelve-ounce stubby brown bottles sell for $8.99. Standard Unchained Series label design with industrial feel.

STYLE: English IPA


COLOR (0-2): Light gold color with a touch of cloudiness. 2

AROMA (0-2): Floral hops with a hint of honey. 2

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

TASTE (0-5): Sharp floral hops with lighter citrus flavors and bready malts. The finish is crisp with a bitter edge. The mouthfeel is on the thin side and the body is medium. Pretty drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Pleasant and lasting. 2

OVERALL (0-6): This is definitely not another IPA. Less hopped up than many IPAs, its closer to the British version of the style than its usually more aggressive American cousin. It’s a tasty, refreshing, and even unique interpretation of the style. Pick up a six-pack and pour a few tonight. In the right glass of course. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 15

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Get Off the Tracks

Almost every Republican and even a few Democrats believe that the implementation of Obamacare is going to be a train wreck. While the government imposed health care disaster will almost certainly have negative impacts on the economy and slow, and possibly even reverse, the already tepid recovery, it will be entirely owned by President Obama and the Democrats. So instead of standing in the tracks and trying to stop the onrushing train, Republicans should get out the way and allow the crash to take place. Daniel Henninger makes to case for Letting ObamaCare Collapse:

The odds of ObamaCare's eventual self-collapse look stronger every day. After that happens, then what? Try truly universal health insurance? Not bloody likely if the aghast U.S. public has any say.

Enacted with zero Republican votes, ObamaCare is the solely owned creation of the Democrats' belief in their own limitless powers to fashion goodness out of legislated entitlements. Sometimes social experiments go wrong. In the end, the only one who supported Frankenstein was Dr. Frankenstein. The Democrats in 2014 should by all means be asked relentlessly to defend their monster.

Republicans and conservatives, instead of tilting at the defunding windmill, should be working now to present the American people with the policy ideas that will emerge inevitably when ObamaCare's declines. The system of private insurance exchanges being adopted by the likes of Walgreens suggests a parallel alternative to ObamaCare may be happening already.

If Republicans feel they must "do something" now, they could get behind Sen. David Vitter's measure to force Congress to enter the burning ObamaCare castle along with the rest of the American people. Come 2017, they can repeal the ruins.

The discrediting of the entitlement state begins next Tuesday. Let it happen.

As Henninger notes, there is a risk in this “let it happen” strategy. Proponents of Obamacare (like those who claim that “real” socialism has never been tried or those that say the stimulus wasn’t big enough) will argue that the reason it failed wasn’t because of its inherently flawed premise, but rather that it didn’t go far enough. They will push instead for the single payer, universal health care model. And there is a possibility that’s what we could end up with. However, like Heninger, I believe that once Americans experience the bad taste of Obamacare the last thing they’ll want is an even bigger dose of the same medicine.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Local Boys Done Bad

The Twin Cities media usually can’t enough local angles to stories. They love to find any Minnesotan who has a connection to events in the news or anyway they can link people in the news to the state. Until recently, there was one notable exception to this local angle interest: the connection between local Somalis and global terrorism. To borrow a line from the old NATN days, the local media was usually curiously incurious when it came to reporting on said connection.

There was far more attention paid to it in the past by international and national media. Recent events have once again raised the profile of the linke. Today’s WSJ contained a piece chock full of Minnesota references called Al Qaeda's African Surge Threatens the U.S.:

The first known Somali-American bomber, Shirwa Ahmed, participated in a suicide attack in northern Somalia in October 2008. Others followed, including Farah Mohamed Beledi and Abdisalan Hussain Ali, both from Minneapolis, who blew themselves up in separate attacks in 2011. Some young fighters became disillusioned upon seeing their compatriots siphoned off for cannon fodder. But there is no escape from al Shabaab, and many who attempted to leave have been executed.

A handful of Americans attempting to join al Shabaab have been stopped by law-enforcement while planning to travel to Somalia. Others, like Kamal Said Hassan and Abdifatah Yusuf Isse of the Minneapolis area, returned to the U.S. after training with al Shabaab. Convicted of providing material support to a terrorist group, Hassan was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Isse received a three-year sentence earlier this year.

U.S. intelligence officials fear that the score or so of American passport holders believed to be members of al Shabaab might return to the U.S. to commit terrorism. Al Shabaab's leadership has not espoused attacks on America, but security experts fear that recruitment targeting Americans increases the probability of an attack.

Last month, al Shabaab released a video featuring what it called its "Minnesota Martyrs." Minnesota is home to the largest U.S. population of Somalis. The 40-minute video, the first in a promised series, featured three Americans. The video glorified the three young men, saying they had given their lives on what is now a global battlefield. Although some within the group may see Africa as their battleground, those who have cemented the relationship with al Qaeda understand that jihad stretches from Morocco to the Philippines, from Tanzania to Iraq. And as al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri has made clear, to the United States.

It appears that recent events have also caused the local media to open up their eyes and recognize a big story in their midst. Today’s Star Tribune featured a front page piece called Slick video rekindles fears that Al-Shabab is recruiting Minnesotans:

The 40-minute recruiting video is as slick as any marketing tool aimed at men in their 20s: patriotic music, commitment to a greater good, guns, even the promise of enjoying life in “the real Disneyland.”

“Minnesota’s Martyrs: The Path to Paradise” features three young Minnesotans who traveled to Somalia to fight for the terror organization Al-Shabab and, ultimately, to die for their cause.

The video caused little stir when it was released on YouTube in August.

But the Al-Shabab bombing of a Nairobi, Kenya, shopping mall and the potential suggestion that Minnesotans may have been recruited to participate in the attack are renewing concerns that young men from Minnesota continue to be recruited to Al-Shabab training camps.

With the largest Somali population in the United States, the Twin Cities area has been a target for Al-Shabab recruiters.

Federal agents have been investigating Minnesota’s terror pipeline for seven years. The FBI estimates 20 young Somali men have left Minnesota to join the terror group since 2007.

Twitter posts and a Kenyan government official have made vague claims of a Minnesota connection to the terrorists’ attack in Nairobi, but there have been no official confirmations of those who were involved.

Under that cloud, Somali leaders and law enforcement officials say Al-Shabab recruitment in the Twin Cities is ongoing. But whether the numbers have changed is hard to quantify.

“We’re aware of some of these efforts, but it’s difficult to determine how widespread it is,” said FBI spokesman Kyle Loven.

It’s encouraging to see that the local media’s curiosity has finally been piqued enough to address the matter. Let’s hope that that it continues with further follow-ups and deeper investigations into the links and the potential for possible terrorist attacks by these recruits closer to home. That’s a local angle that I think we’re all interested in.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Slog and a Skate

I recently completed reading a book called “Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (The History of New York City)” by Edwin G. Burrows. It was definitely a marathon read that was interesting and worthwhile, yet also exhausting and at times frustrating. One of the mixed blessings of an e-reader is that you always know how much progress you’ve made on a book. I could read lengthy passages of “Gotham” and not move the needle at all. It is tough when you start at 17%, read for a significant period, and still end up at 17%. The paperback edition of the book checks in at 1424 pages which is rather hefty. I’m glad I read “Gotham,” but also glad that I can move on to more digestible material.

Currently, I’m engrossed in “The Audacity of Hops: The History of America's Craft Beer Revolution” by Tom Acitelli. At 416 pages, it’s not exactly a lightweight book, but compared to “Gotham” it’s been a breeze. Acitelli has done his research and his stories on the people and places behind the American craft beer renaissance are fascinating. He often doesn’t mention the name of the brewery until later in each story so it’s fun to try to figure out which one he’s detailing before the reveal. I’m only about halfway through the book so far which is in the mid-Nineties time wise. While there are a lot of familiar names, there are also a lot that came and went and the differences between those breweries that succeeded and those that didn’t aren’t always apparent.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hugh Finds His Nut

For the most part, I have very little interest in gambling. I’ve never been to Las Vegas and I find local casinos-with their cacophony of artificial noise, flashing lights, dimly light interiors, and mostly desperate cliental-to be extremely depressing places, especially during daylight hours. The vibrant scenes and smiling faces that you see on television commercials are not what you find in reality.

While I don’t mind putting a few bones on a pony now and again, the track experience is more about the atmosphere than the betting itself. And it’s been many a year since I’ve been suckered into betting on professional football where the sweet sounding point spreads are all too often siren songs designed to dash you against the rocks.

But once in a while something comes along that’s impossible to resist. A can’t lose proposition that you can’t say to no. A sure thing that you would be foolish to pass up.

It started last Friday on Twitte:

The Browns will humble the Vikings? The same Browns that announced they would start a third string quarterback and had just traded their start running back? In the Vikings home opener? Not bloody likely:

A nerve had been struck:

A wager on the Brown-Vikings game, eh? I knew the line was around seven points, but still this was the best bet ever.

The terms of the bet were set and now we needed to determine the stakes. What did I want from Hugh? Hmmm…

When Mr. Hewitt didn’t respond in a timely manner, I figured he must have realized how foolish his faith in the Browns was.

But Hugh remained true to his team:

At that point, I actually felt a little bit sorry for Hugh. Well, not really, but still it did seem unfair. Taking a bottle of Scotch from him like this was going to be like taking candy from a baby. For those who may not be familiar with Hugh’s track record in such matters, I believe he is officially 0 for 74 when it comes to sports predictions he has made in the last ten years. Whether it was the Browns, Indians, Cavs, Buckeyes, or even Miami of Ohio hockey, the result was always the opposite of what Hugh had predicted would occur. He had an almost uncanny ability to always be on the wrong side of history in such matters.

Until yesterday, when the Vikings somehow not only failed to cover the spread against a team that had pretty much already bagged the rest of the season, they actually managed to lose the game. To the Brian Hoyer led Browns. At home. Even worse, I lost a bet. To Hugh Hewitt. For Scotch.

Never again.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Stamp Act

Yesterday's WSJ had an editorial on those draconian GOP plans to slash food stamps:

The bill that House Republicans passed Thursday evening would try to reverse these dependency trends. It would reinstate work requirements for employable adults without children and allow states to begin experimenting with work requirements for able-bodied recipients. It would eliminate the roughly $40 million a year that the government spends to convince Americans to enroll in the program.

And it would close the "categorical eligibility" loophole that has put 1.8 million Americans on food stamps who don't qualify, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Categorical eligibility allows individuals to automatically qualify for SNAP if they receive benefits from other low-income assistance programs, such as cash welfare, Supplemental Security Income, or home heating subsidies.

Since these programs often don't have asset requirements, this allows states to give food benefits to those with homes, cars or bank accounts worth well above the limit for food stamps. In a September 2009 memo to state officials, federal food-stamp administrator Jessica Shahin wrote that "We encourage you to continue promoting expanded categorical eligibility as a way to increase SNAP participation."

The House reforms are sensible, but they are far less stringent than the 1996 welfare reform. That law required nearly all employable recipients of cash welfare (including single mothers) to work or get job training. Unlike welfare reform, food stamps would still have no time limit on benefits and families with children wouldn't be affected.

The GOP reforms will save taxpayers about $4 billion a year from the more than $80 billion cost of food stamps. But those savings are secondary to the social value of starting again to replace the lifestyle of government dependency with the self-respect and upward economic mobility that comes from work.

Work? I told you the proposals were draconian.

HWX, After the Fall

It's a special weekend edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience(HWX). John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas reconvene to discuss the crucial events of our time. Topics addressed include:
 * how to pass the time while waiting in line 2 hours for the new iPhone

 * Congressional GOP gamesmanship with the debt ceiling

 * the onset of Obamacare

 * critical commodity shortages in Venezuela

 * understanding and misunderstanding Pope Francis's recent comments about Church priorities

 * the Navy Yard shooting (with a This Week in Gate keeping bonus)

 Articles references in the above discussions include:

 * Mark Steyn's latest masterpiece on the debt ceiling: Next Stop Banana Republic

 * Pope Francis's interivew in America magazine: A Big Open Heart to God

 * George Weigel's analysis of Pope Francis's remarks: The Christ-Centered Pope

There are 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.  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, September 20, 2013

Let Them Play

Peter Gray examines the play deficit and its impact on children:

When I was a child in the 1950s, my friends and I had two educations. We had school (which was not the big deal it is today), and we also had what I call a hunter-gather education. We played in mixed-age neighbourhood groups almost every day after school, often until dark. We played all weekend and all summer long. We had time to explore in all sorts of ways, and also time to become bored and figure out how to overcome boredom, time to get into trouble and find our way out of it, time to daydream, time to immerse ourselves in hobbies, and time to read comics and whatever else we wanted to read rather than the books assigned to us. What I learnt in my hunter-gatherer education has been far more valuable to my adult life than what I learnt in school, and I think others in my age group would say the same if they took time to think about it.

For more than 50 years now, we in the United States have been gradually reducing children’s opportunities to play, and the same is true in many other countries. In his book Children at Play: An American History (2007), Howard Chudacoff refers to the first half of the 20th century as the ‘golden age’ of children’s free play. By about 1900, the need for child labour had declined, so children had a good deal of free time. But then, beginning around 1960 or a little before, adults began chipping away at that freedom by increasing the time that children had to spend at schoolwork and, even more significantly, by reducing children’s freedom to play on their own, even when they were out of school and not doing homework. Adult-directed sports for children began to replace ‘pickup’ games; adult-directed classes out of school began to replace hobbies; and parents’ fears led them, ever more, to forbid children from going out to play with other kids, away from home, unsupervised. There are lots of reasons for these changes but the effect, over the decades, has been a continuous and ultimately dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play and explore in their own chosen ways.

Over the same decades that children’s play has been declining, childhood mental disorders have been increasing. It’s not just that we’re seeing disorders that we overlooked before. Clinical questionnaires aimed at assessing anxiety and depression, for example, have been given in unchanged form to normative groups of schoolchildren in the US ever since the 1950s. Analyses of the results reveal a continuous, essentially linear, increase in anxiety and depression in young people over the decades, such that the rates of what today would be diagnosed as generalised anxiety disorder and major depression are five to eight times what they were in the 1950s. Over the same period, the suicide rate for young people aged 15 to 24 has more than doubled, and that for children under age 15 has quadrupled.

The decline in opportunity to play has also been accompanied by a decline in empathy and a rise in narcissism, both of which have been assessed since the late 1970s with standard questionnaires given to normative samples of college students. Empathy refers to the ability and tendency to see from another person’s point of view and experience what that person experiences. Narcissism refers to inflated self-regard, coupled with a lack of concern for others and an inability to connect emotionally with others. A decline of empathy and a rise in narcissism are exactly what we would expect to see in children who have little opportunity to play socially. Children can’t learn these social skills and values in school, because school is an authoritarian, not a democratic setting. School fosters competition, not co-operation; and children there are not free to quit when others fail to respect their needs and wishes.

In my book, Free to Learn (2013), I document these changes, and argue that the rise in mental disorders among children is largely the result of the decline in children’s freedom. If we love our children and want them to thrive, we must allow them more time and opportunity to play, not less. Yet policymakers and powerful philanthropists are continuing to push us in the opposite direction — toward more schooling, more testing, more adult direction of children, and less opportunity for free play.

Even though I grew up in the Seventies, I shared many of the childhood experiences that Gray cites. While my brother and I had friends at school, we spent most of our formative years playing with kids from the neighborhood; some older, some younger, some boys, some girls. During the school year, we would meet up with these neighborhood friends after and play until dinner and sometimes after that. In the summer, we would head out in the morning to do the same, returning home only for lunch and dinner. And we roamed wide and far in our neighborhood and into adjacent areas. Our mom usually had no idea where we were. I rarely recall telling her of our plans before we left home and if we did if we have been so vague as to be worthless: “Going over to play with Kirk and Eric.”

Other than a very casually organized t-ball league, I didn’t play organized sports until 4th grade. But we played pick-up games all the time. Baseball, basketball, football, and hockey (ice, driveway, and any other surface we could find) games were always going on with no adults and no referees. You learn a lot about compromise and getting along with others when you play baseball with five boys or football with four. Arguing about the rules (ghost runners, five-Mississippis, etc.) and whether they were being followed correctly was half the fun. But if you didn’t have rules-not rules imposed on you, but rules created by your own negotiations-you didn’t have a game.

We try to give our boys plenty of time for free play. And homeschooling definitely helps in that regard. But things have definitely changed when it comes to opportunities for the hunter-gather education that Gray describes. For one thing, in our day it was rare for moms to work outside the home. So during the summer, most of the kids in the neighborhood were home most of the time. And there are some many more organized activities for children these days that even if your kids are available for unstructured play, it doesn’t mean other kids are. The fact that the term “play date” is now widely accepted and used in our culture is a sad sign of the sorry state of play offered to most kids today.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Doom on Us

For those who remain optimistic that the United States can still turn away from our present course toward a leviathan state need only consider the current discussion of proposed cutbacks in the food stamps program to realize how difficult any course correction will be.

In January, 2008 just over 27 million Americans were receiving food stamps. In September, 2013 over 47 million (close to 48 million) Americans were receiving food stamps. That’s roughly an increase of 74% in five-and-a-half years.

Matt Trivisonno has a very informative post where he has a number of charts showing changes in the food stamp numbers. This one shows the growth in individuals receiving food stamps in the time period mentioned above:

A second chart shows the numbers by year going back to 1975:

It’s stunning to note the thirty-three year span between 1975 and 2008 the numbers were anywhere from 16 million to 28 million before skyrocketing to 47 million in 2013. The recent growth is unprecedented both in terms of raw numbers and percentage.

Another chart that confirms the uniqueness of the recent food stamp surge is this one that shows the percentage of Americans receiving food stamps from 1976 to 2012:

Again, over a thirty-plus year period the % varied from 6% to just over 10% before jumping to nearly 15% in 2012.

Depressed yet? Just wait. House GOP members now want to take a step back and actually stem this rising food stamp tide. In fact, they’re going to take a vote on that very matter today. A completely objective straight-down-the-middle story in yesterday’s Washington Post provided the details.

House to vote on deep cuts to food-stamp program:

The years-long fight over federal funding for food stamps is set for another showdown Thursday when House Republicans plan to vote on a proposal to dramatically curtail aid to needy Americans. Every Democrat is expected to vote against the proposal.

The GOP measure would slash about $39 billion over the next decade for food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is providing an average of $133 in monthly aid to more than 47 million Americans, according to a recent government report. The proposal differs sharply from a Senate plan passed this summer that would cut roughly $4.5 billion in SNAP money mostly by reducing administrative expenses.

If there was any doubt how this story was going to be framed by the unbiased media consider the words used here: “deep cuts,” “dramatically curtail aid to needy Americans,” and “slash.” The same scary sounding words are being bandied about across traditional media outlets and by Democratic politicians and pundits. But how “deep” and “dramatic” is this proposed “slashing” of food stamps?

The bill would cut SNAP funding by stiffening the eligibility requirements for “able-bodied” people with no children. The Congressional Budget Office estimated this week that about 3.5 million adults would no longer be eligible for the program if the proposed changes are enacted.

3.5 million “able-bodied” people would no longer receive food stamps if the proposal were to be become law (which it won’t since it will never pass the Senate). It sounds like a lot until you consider the numbers were starting with. Again, as of September 6th, the data shows 47.76 million Americans receive food stamps. So cutting 3.5 million from those rolls would be a reduction of 7.3%. Draconian, ain’t it?

If these cuts were put in place (which they won’t be), the % of Americans receiving food stamps would plummet from 14.83% to 13.72% (rough estimates using 2012 data) which would still be significantly higher than any year prior to 2009.

If we can’t make minor cutbacks like this without igniting a media storm about how much Republicans hate poor people we have no chance to make the far more meaningful changes required to change course. Doom on us.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The High Price of Low Flow

Got an e-mail today from CenterPoint Energy offering a free low flow showerhead to help save energy. When I clicked the link I found this:

CenterPoint Energy is offering free, low flow showerheads and faucet aerators to residential natural gas customers with natural gas water heaters in Arkansas and in Texas communities of Texarkana, Wake Village, Nash and Red Water. These FREE, easy-to-install low flow showerheads and faucet aerators are designed to reduce your hot water use, with no sacrifice in water pressure.

First off, I live a long way from Texas, Arkansas, or Texarkana (or Arkanxas for that matter). Secondly, I’m highly skeptical of the claim that these wonderful energy savings wrought by the low flow showerhead would indeed not require a sacrifice in water pressure.

From the Seinfeld episode The Showerhead:

Jerry's apartment. Kramer walks in, his trademark 'high hair' is flat.

Kramer: Jerry? Jerry!

Jerry walks in from the back room, his hair is also flat.

Kramer: Wha, you too?

Jerry: Yeah!

Kramer: These showers are horrible. There's no pressure, I can't get the shampoo out of my hair.

Jerry: Me either.

Kramer: If I don't have a good shower I am not myself. I feel weak and ineffectual. I'm not Kramer.

Jerry: You? What about me? I got the Tonight Show tonight. I'm gonna have to shower in the dressing room.

Kramer (leaving): Aw.

Jerry: Where are you going?

Kramer: I gotta find another shower.

A Commando 450? Now, that I could go for...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hats Off to Thee

In honor of the Minnesota Gopher's inspired victory today over hated rival Western Illinois University (in spite of a brilliant defensive plan by the Leathernecks' superstar Defensive Coordinator), let's wake up the echoes of Gopher glories past and yet to come.

Even though I created this, still can't usually get more than about 60% of the non-conference teams right.    Some of these names sound made up, but I'm assured they are all fine, accredited institutions of higher learning.  Enjoy.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXXXIV)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the hard working folks at Glen Lake Wine and Spirits who can help you find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to celebrate the harvest in style.

Even though you can start to feel the shiver-inducing chill in the air, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy the beers of summer. Well, plenty of time might be an overestimate. Best get in as many summer beers in whilst you can.

Beers such as farmhouse ales or saisons:

Saison (French, "season," French pronunciation: [sɛ.zɔ̃]) is a broadly defined pale ale that in modern versions is generally around 7% abv, highly carbonated, fruity, spicy (sometimes from the addition of spices), and is influenced by Saison Dupont Vieille Provision. As a beer style it originated from beers brewed during the cooler and less active months in farmhouses in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, and then stored for drinking by the farm workers during the summer months.[1] It is believed that these farmhouse beers would have been of a lower abv than modern saisons - probably initially around 3 to 3.5% abv on average, rising in the early 20th century to between 4.5 and 6.5% abv. Modern saisons are brewed in a range of countries, particularly the USA, and are generally bottle conditioned.

Our featured brew this week is Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from Boulevard Brewing:

Most breweries have at least one piece of equipment that’s just a bit persnickity. Here at Boulevard we have fermenter number seven, the black sheep of our cellar family. Ironically, when our brewers were experimenting with variations on a traditional Belgian-style farmhouse ale, the perfect combination of elements came together in that very vessel. You could call it fate, but they called it Tank 7, and so it is. Beginning with a big surge of fruity aromatics and grapefruit-hoppy notes, the flavor of this complex, straw-colored ale tapers off to a peppery, dry finish.

A four-pack of 12oz streamlined brown bottles is $9.99. Label is classic design with light blue background.

STYLE: Saison


COLOR (0-2): Gold and nicely clouded. 2

AROMA (0-2): Yeasty with banana and clove. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright while color with tons of volume. 2

TASTE (0-5): Tasty combo with bright hoppy fruit flavors of citrus, mango, and passion fruit meld with bready malts and spicy yeast. The finish is crisp and peppery. Good carbonation and a medium body. Quite drinkable and you scarcely pick up the potent alcohol content. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Flavors of fruit and spice follow through.

OVERALL (0-6): A very well done rendition of a farmhouse ale. Refreshing yet with plenty of taste to savor as we seek to do the same for these last days of summer. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Our Own Inimitable Fashion

When seeking to analyze events of the past week vis-a-vis the situation in Syria, it’s difficult to find a metaphor that captures the scale and scope of America’s foreign policy humiliation. Putin played Obama like a fiddle. He pulled his strings like a puppet master. Putin’s playing chess while Obama’s playing ____ (fill in the blank). While they’re all true, they still don’t quite describe how thoroughly the world’s only superpower has been humbled and how far our credibility and prestige has plummeted.

One scene that came to mind as being an appropriate approximate was the opening to the Twilight Zone episode called “Mr. Denton on Doomsday.” The US is the washed up gunfighter being bullied, humiliated, and made to act like a clown by the blacked hated villain Putin who laughs with his pals at our downfall:

In the Twilight Zone episode, the gunfighter is given a chance at redemption thanks to a magical elixir provided by traveling salesman Henry J. Fate. In the real world, I fear that fate won’t be so kind to the United States.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Role Playing

Contrary to the claims that intervening in Syria will help elements of Al Qaeda that are part of the rebellion against Assad, Hannah Stewart argues that doing nothing actually Strengthens Al Qaeda:

Today, in the Syrian conflict, the graphic videos of last month's chemical weapons attack in Damascus are shocking the world. Images of children struggling to gather their last breaths may corral public support for Western military intervention. But they will also be remembered for decades, in al Qaeda's narrative, as still more evidence of Western complicity in global Muslim suffering.

From the very beginning of the conflict, Syrians have been asking for Western assistance. To date, the West has done little to support them.

Al Qaeda, however, has reacted. And it won't matter that their fighters shot dead a 14-year-old Syrian boy accused of blasphemy, or that they committed any number of other atrocities against the people they claim to protect. After two and half years of fighting and more than 100,000 people killed, the story will be that al Qaeda's fighters risked their lives for their Syrian brothers while world leaders watched the country burn.

Stewart explains that Western inaction in the face of Muslim suffering is part and parcel of the narrative that Al Qaeda has been spinning for years going back to Bosnia. And as she notes, while ordinary Syrians may not approve of the actions or embrace the beliefs that Al Qaeda espouses, the fact that they are on the ground doing something while the West watches is a powerful propaganda tool. Of all the arguments for Western intervention yet put forward, this may be the most compelling.

Monday, September 09, 2013

When Betty Met Barack

Sorry if I'm shouting on this post, but I'm straining to be heard above the ear drum piercing screams for war coming out of Minnesota's 4th Congressional District and my representative, Democrat Betty McCollum.   You may recall, she did an abrupt about face on her long held anti-war beliefs and last week demanded that Barack Obama's red line through Syria be painted in blood:

"This is a crime against humanity that requires an unequivocal response from the U.S. and the international community. To do nothing and allow Syrian President Assad and his generals’ impunity following such an atrocity would undermine the most fundamental global norms of conduct that keep Americans safe while directly putting at risk our key regional allies – Jordan, Turkey, and Israel.

As I have stated previously, the U.S. should not take unilateral military action, but it is clear the Obama Administration is making significant diplomatic efforts to seek support from a host of nations, especially Arab League nations, for a limited military strike.”

McCollum and Obama becoming the Legion of Doom is a surprise, especially when you consider what brought them together in the first place.   It was about Christmas time in 2007 and a young, naïve Illinois Senator running for President caught the eye of St. Paul's representative and got one of his first endorsements based on one premise:  peace.   From Rep. McCollum's endorsement:

"The Iraq War has been the most disastrous foreign policy decision of our lifetime and Barack Obama got it right when he opposed this war of choice from the start," said Congresswoman McCollum.  "Barack Obama has the courage to move our country forward by challenging Washington's tired conventional thinking. I'm endorsing Barack Obama for President because I trust his leadership — for my family, for our country and for a more secure world. We need a President who can unite the American people to confront the serious challenges facing our nation, especially ending the war in Iraq, and that is Barack Obama."

Back in 2007, the pacifistic warm fuzzies weren't sent on  a one-way street.  McCollum's endorsement earned this warm, peaceful retort from the man who would bomb Syria:

"Congresswoman McCollum has been an outspoken leader on the challenges facing communities across America, and I'm grateful for her endorsement," said Senator Obama. "Betty McCollum had the judgment to oppose authorizing the war in Iraq, and she has worked to end the war as quickly and responsibly as we can."

All they were saying .... was give peace a chance.

They're singing a different tune now.  Times have changed, and that dictator's use of chemical weapons in Syria is apparently unaccountably worse than that dictator's use of chemical weapons in Iran.  Where the latter deserved a peaceful response, the former deserves death from above. 

Being rational, logically-consistent, principled politicians, I'm sure McCollum and Obama will soon be releasing new statements updating their former positions.   And if they're employing the same press release writers as they did in 2007, it will sound something like this.

From the Desk of Rep. Betty McCollum:

"The absence of US involvement in the Syrian War has been the most disastrous foreign policy decision of our lifetime and Barack Obama got it right when he supported this war of choice from the start," said Congresswoman McCollum.

"Barack Obama has the courage to move our country forward by continuing Washington's tired conventional thinking. I'm endorsing Barack Obama for President because I trust his leadership — for my family, for our country and for a less secure world. We need a President who can divide the
American people to confront the serious challenges facing our nation, especially starting the war in Syria, and that is Barack Obama."

From the Desk of President Barack Obama:

"Congresswoman McCollum has been an outspoken leader on the challenges facing communities across America, and I'm grateful for her endorsement," said Senator Obama. "Betty McCollum had the judgment to support authorizing the war in Syria, and she has worked to start the war as quickly and irresponsibly as we can."

We'll stand by for further updates.   I'm especially hoping to hear Iron Betty McCollum's reaction to that peace plan from bleeding heart dissident Vladmir Putin.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

HWX, with Steven Hayward

It was a special Thursday night edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX). John Hinderaker of Power Line and me reconvening to discuss the vital issues of last week.  We were also joined by the great Steven Hayward (of AEI, Power Line and the University of Colorado). The rollicking conversation included:

*  a salute to Rosh Hashanah

*  how Lutherans repent (and what they have to repent for)

*  Syria, Syria, Syria (seriously).  It's three days later and virtually nothing we said or speculated upon has already been disproven.  We're getting better at this. 

Also Loon of the Week (on shifting red lines) and This Week in Gatekeeping (the thin red line between fascism and right-wing blogs).

There are 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.  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.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

When Betty Met Bashar

Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-4) was against the Obama administration’s militaristic approach to handling Syria:

“Now is the time for measures that will bring strategic pressure to prevent an escalation of the conflict, rather than add to the wanton violence of a situation already out of control. Unilateral U.S. military action against the Syrian regime at this time would do nothing to advance American interests, but would certainly fuel extremist groups on both sides of the conflict that are determined to expand the bloodshed beyond Syria’s borders.”

Before she was for it:

“Having been briefed by the White House, the intelligence is undeniable that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons to gas and kill innocent civilians. This is a crime against humanity that requires an unequivocal response from the U.S. and the international community. To do nothing and allow Syrian President Assad and his generals’ impunity following such an atrocity would undermine the most fundamental global norms of conduct that keep Americans safe while directly putting at risk our key regional allies – Jordan, Turkey, and Israel.

As I have stated previously, the U.S. should not take unilateral military action, but it is clear the Obama Administration is making significant diplomatic efforts to seek support from a host of nations, especially Arab League nations, for a limited military strike.”

What a difference six days make!

Betty McCollum mongering for war, never thought I’d see it.  I take this as evidence that Congressional Democrat leadership thinks that the vote will be so close they can’t even let bleeding hearts off the hook to vote their conscience or serve their constituents. Instead, they’re forced to expose them in the act of serving their real master, the Party. 

To be fair, maybe McCollum is suffering from confusion based on past experience.  Because the last time she hung out with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, he was a great guy!  Flashback to 2007:

Rep. Betty McCollum praised the Syrian government's response to Iraqi refugees in the country following a meeting Wednesday with Syrian President Bashar Assad. "Under his leadership, the Syrian government is allowing Iraqi children to attend school, and they're working through the Red Crescent to provide basic health care," McCollum said in a telephone interview from the Syrian capital, Damascus.

After one meeting, Betty McCollum testified to the world about the Syrian dictator’s great leadership and kindness.  And now he’s gassing his own people.  Any local media types think that might be a story to follow up on?  Get some first person insight from Rep. McCollum about the measure of the man and how she could have been so wrong in her very public assessment of him?

Speaking of McCollum’s powers of discernment, more from the road to Damascus in 2007:

Syria has tightened visa rules for Iraqis to try to prod people to return home and keep new refugees from coming. "They're very concerned about how much Damascus can absorb," McCollum said. "They're saying at some point, what more can they do?" McCollum said the refugees told her they were desperate for peace in their lives. "They live day-to-day," she said. "They've lost everything. A lot of these people are professionals -- doctors, teachers, journalists. They saw their lives deteriorate due to crime and sectarian violence."

One woman bluntly told McCollum, "I wouldn't be here today if you hadn't attacked my country," according to the congresswoman. "I said I'm only one of 435, and I was on the losing end of that vote, and I apologized," she said.

Beyond the propriety of apologizing for US policy while she was travelling in the capacity of an official government representative, an interesting comment about McCollum voting against the Iraq war.  As you may recall one of the justifications by the Bush administration for US intervention in Iraq was the use of chemical weapons by the Iraqi dictator against his own people.  And McCollum vehemently voted against it.  

But when a Syrian dictator uses chemical weapons against his own people and the Obama administration uses it as justification for a military strike?

This is a crime against humanity that requires an unequivocal response from the U.S. and the international community.

It’s almost as if her vote is based on some other variable than a dictator using chemical weapons against his own people.

Frack the Poor

Environmentalists who want to us to reduce or even eliminate the use of carbon based fuels in order to prevent the coming catastrophe of global warming seem to pay little heed to the impact that such policies will have on the millions of poor people around the world whose quality of life would be dramatically improved by the jobs, electricity, heat, and transportation that such fuels help provide. They’ve got their air conditioned homes, but the poor in China and India are going to make do without in the interests of saving the planet.

One of the causes that environmentalists and socially conscious Hollywood stars have embraced of late is to ban fracking in the United States. Fracking of course has revolutionized the America’s energy environment. It’s directly and indirectly created thousands of jobs, lowered energy costs, and may even lead to a situation where the US is actually exporting oil and gas. It’s one of the few economic bright spots in recent years and should be celebrated for its positive impacts for all Americans.

Especially the poor. Fracking and the Poor:

Mercator's most notable finding is that the income group helped the most by this bonanza is the poor because energy is a big component of their family budgets. Data from the annual report of the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (Liheap) show that poor households spend four times more of their income on home energy (10.4%) than do non-poor households (2.6%). That same report says that roughly 40 million households, or 36% of U.S. households, are eligible for Liheap. Though the poor on average spend less overall on heating and electricity, lower natural gas prices have still shaved about $10 billion a year from the utility bills of poor families.

To put it another way, fracking is a much more effective antipoverty program than is Liheap. In 2012, Liheap provided roughly $3.5 billion to about nine million low-income households to subsidize their home-heating costs. New drilling technologies saved poor households almost three times more. Low gas prices benefit nearly all poor households, while Liheap helps fewer than one in four.

These energy savings are especially impressive compared to what residents of other industrialized nations are paying. The natural gas price this summer increased to about $3.70 per million BTUs, but that compares to the roughly $10 that consumers pay in Spain or $13 in China. According to the Mercator analysis, if natural gas prices were that high in the U.S., average home heating bills for millions of Americans would be almost 75% higher.

You can’t deny the passion and commitment that environmentalists have for helping the planet. It’s too bad they don’t feel the same way about the people.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Urban Beautification

Joe Doakes e-mails from Como Park:

I work in St. Paul but had to go downtown Minneapolis for a noon meeting. Noticed a big difference.

Downtown Minneapolis is where the hot chicks work.

Downtown Saint Paul is where their fat sisters and maiden aunts work.

It’s amazing, really. Like comparing the shoppers at Galleria and Wal-Mart.

If the Mayor wants to make downtown St. Paul more attractive to businesses, maybe he should see what he can do about the scenery.

Since I work in a posh southwestern suburb in a workplace that’s roughly 90% male, I’m in no position to comment on office scenery. However, I am not surprised to hear that Minneapolis enjoys an advantage over it sibling city when it comes to such matters. The twins are far from identical.

(The Galleria and Wal-Mart compariosn is a particularly harsh one. Ouch.)

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Big Enough to Matter

U.S. Department of Education: Homeschooling Continues to Grow!:

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released an eagerly awaited report on the number of homeschool students in the U.S. The report showed that the number of homeschool students has grown by almost 300,000 since the last report in 2007.

This report was first conducted in 1999, when the NCES found that approximately 850,000 students were homeschooled. In 2003, NCES found that this number had grown to 1.1 million. And in 2007, NCES found that 1.5 million students were homeschooled.

The new report concludes that approximately 1,770,000 students are homeschooled in the United States—3.4% of the school-age population.

At 3.4% of the entire school-age population, the number of kids being home schooled is still relatively small. Yet it's probably bigger than most people realize and it's growing. As it does I would expect the influence of homeschoolers to increase while at the same time efforts to diminish and demean homeschooling will also rise as will efforts to limit and restrict parents' ability to educate their children as they see fit. The more attention that homeschooling receives, the more parents will likely consider it as a viable option. And the more that members of the education establishment will perceive it as a threat to their vested interests and seek to curtail its growth. It will be an interesting and bumpy ride in the years ahead.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Hanging On To The Keys

While I can understand the benefits when it comes to safety and more efficient traffic flows, the concept of driverless cars has always been unsettling to me. Now, with the news that Nissan plans to sell such vehicles by 2020, the concept is that much closer to becoming reality. Holman Jenkins ponders the implications of this looming reality and what it means for society When Your Car Is Spying on You:

Meanwhile, the real threat to our autonomy gathers speed. "Autonomous" vehicles are part of the threat—because they won't be autonomous at all.

This column has warned for years about plate-recognition cameras, increasingly armed with face-recognition capabilities, that will make it impossible to go anywhere or do anything in public without being monitored. Ann Arbor, Mich., is a federal test bed currently for a network of receivers to which experimentally-equipped vehicles report 10 times a second their position, speed and other data to central computers.

Nearly every car trip Britons take already is recorded and saved by networked plate recognition camera. Yes, there is umbrage. The government's information commissioner recently chided the rural village of Royston for its "ring of steel," a network of cameras enclosing the town.

But the future is coming anyway. Nothing is stopping private operators from creating databases of plate numbers, faces and identities—crossed referenced by matching photos you and others post online on your Facebook profiles and elsewhere.

These will be indexed by place of residence. Stores will know who you are the minute their cameras catch your plate arriving in their parking lots.

The real battle will be between us and us. The population is aging. An older, more timid society is likely to be in favor of penning up fellow citizens in a mesh of monitoring to regulate routine behavior.

The authoritarianism of the weak, always a problem in society, will find an ally in the bureaucracy's craving for resources. Traffic cameras in Britain as well in Los Angeles and other jurisdictions overwhelmingly ring up drivers for offenses that wouldn't trouble a cop.

That rings true for me as I recently was dinged by a traffic camera in the Netherlands for doing 109KM in a 100KM zone. Dutch coworkers informed me that the traffic cameras are regarded by most citizens as nothing more than a way for the government to generate revenue.

New Jersey is just the latest state scandalized by discovery that yellow lights are set below the state minimum in order to yield more red-light camera tickets. London uses its cameras to levy special fees on those who drive SUVs in the city's financial distract.

In some future discrimination or hate-crime lawsuit, will vehicle records be called up to show you locked your doors in a minority neighborhood but not in a white neighborhood? Will the state decide to raise your ObamaCare copays because a face-recognition camera also recognized a cigarette dangling from your lip?

When our every action in space and cyberspace can be monitored and policed, we no longer police ourselves to any meaningful extent. We become not citizens but children. The state is our parent. The real threat is that many of our fellow citizens will like it this way.

Jenkins opines that this creeping authoritarianism-endorsed or at least tolerated by our fellow citizens-is more of a threat to our liberties than anything the NSA is doing and I tend to agree. While I can understand the appeal of the driverless car, I prefer to stay behind the wheel.