Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rhetorical Separated at Birth?

A spokesman from the Mali Defense Ministry:

"You don't go to war with the materials you'd want. You go to war with the materials you have right now." and...

...Donald Rumsfeld:

"As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What is this "Islam" of Which You Speak?

While you may not agree with the views of the new breed of aggressive atheists who have emerged in recent years you have to admire their courage for bravely standing up and speaking truth to power against the various religious institutions whose integrity they seek to undermine. No matter what consequences they might face, they aren’t afraid to lay out their case against religion in terms that are often harsh and sure to offend.

Here is an example from an article called Facing uncomfortable truths:

In a recent Al-Jazeerah interview, Richard Dawkins was asked his views on God. He argued that the god of "the Old Testament" is "hideous" and "a monster", and reiterated his claim from The God Delusion that the God of the Torah is the most unpleasant character "in fiction".

As you can see, Dawkins has no trouble attacking the Hebrew God in a most direct and uncompromising manner. No atheist wallflower he.

Asked if he thought the same of the God of the Koran, Dawkins ducked the question, saying: "Well, um, the God of the Koran I don't know so much about."

How can it be that the world's most fearless atheist, celebrated for his strident opinions on the Christian and Jewish Gods, could profess to know so little about the God of the Koran? Has he not had the time? Or is Professor Dawkins simply demonstrating that most crucial trait of his species: survival instinct.

Whoops. It’s funny how these confident, cocksure prophets of atheism-who barely have time to take a breath between slamming the tenets of Christianity and Judaism-often get curiously tongue-tied and shy when the subject of Islam comes up. The idea that Dawkins doesn’t “know so much about” the God of the Koran is absurd. Of course he knows about Islam. And the same disdain and disregard that he has for Judaism and Christianity should surely apply to Islam as well.

The truth is that bashing and mocking Judaism and Christianity is easy and painless. You’ll get praise and admiration from those within the “right” circles of academia, media, and entertainment. Your opponents will argue with and debate your views and they may even offer (gasp) to pray for you. There’s no real price to pay at all.

However, should you direct the same scathing criticisms towards Islam you’ll find those “right” circles suddenly closed off to you. And your opponents’ rebuttals may not be offered in articles and debate halls, but rather with bullets, bombs, and knives. Standing up to that takes real courage not the false bravado we see on displays as atheists attack Judaism and Christianity.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Banging Our Heads Harder Not Smarter

It seems that almost everywhere one turns these days you find a Democratic politician or liberal pundit singing the praises of early childhood education. Not only does it sound good, not only does it help the children, but it pays off with promised rates of returns straight out of a glossy Madoff investment brochure. Why would anyone possibly not be in favor of “investing” more in such an obvious winning proposition for all involved?

Well, there is that whole thing about how it doesn’t really deliver the benefits that its proponents claim it does. And then there is the fact that rather than being an innovative approach that we just haven’t fully embraced, government subsidized early childhood education programs have already been tried, tested, and found wanting.

An editorial in today’s WSJ called Head Start for All contained details on the current extent of government involvement ($) in early childhood education that you rarely hear from supporters:

Counting Head Start, special education and state-subsidized preschool, 42% of four-year-olds are now enrolled in a government program. Federal, state and local financing for early learning is closing in on $40 billion a year, double what it was a decade ago. But can anyone say that achievement is twice as good—or even as good?

The problem of America's undeveloped human potential is real, but Mr. Obama has set up a non-falsifiable evidentiary standard for government. The public schools fail the poor, but reforming them is hard and would upset the unions. So instead liberals propose Head Start to prepare poor kids for kindergarten. Head Start has little to show after 47 years, but rather than replacing it, the new liberal solution is to expand it to everyone.

Meanwhile, pundits who claim to be empiricists lecture Republicans to agree to all this so they don't appear to be so hostile to government. Everyone pretends that spending more on programs that have demonstrably failed is a sign of compassion and "what works," government expands without results, and the poor are offered only the false hope of liberal good intentions.

So over 40% of preschoolers are already involved in some form of government program and we’ve doubled spending on these programs in ten years. And the results have been what exactly?

But when it comes to government programs, results don’t matter. It’s only about more. More money, more bureaucracy, more control.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pole Position

Robert from Michigan e-mails with a follow up to the Pure Michigan Fat Tuesday video which poked fun at that state's Polish community:

Have we really reached the point where we can't all enjoy some good natured laughs by making fun of Pollacks? Archie Bunker must be rolling over in his grave.

Meanwhile, Bert e-mails with a local angle on fattening ethnic food:

OK, it's not quite an equivalent, but you do have "Kolacky Days" late each July in Montgomery, about 45 minutes south on 13 from the Cities. And I bet some of the people down along the "Czech highway" know how to make Paczki, because the treat is a basic jelly donut that was popular throughout the Austro-Hungarian empire. Faschingskrapfen in German, and they're traditionally fried in lard. One of the bakeries in Vienna has done a major innovation by frying them in butter.

Should I post a recipe, or would that be too cruel during Lent?

Too cruel and a bit too unusual as well.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Straight to Hell at No More Than 3 Miles an Hour

Airports Battle Bogus Requests for Wheelchair Assistance (WSJ):

It happens regularly, airport officials say. A traveler requests a wheelchair, gets pushed to the front of the security line and screened—and then jumps up out of the chair and rushes off into the terminal. "We call them 'miracles.' They just start running with their heavy carry-ons," said wheelchair attendant Kenny Sanchez, who has been pushing for more than 14 years.

Wheelchair assistance is a vital, widely used airport service, making travel feasible for the elderly and people with disabilities, injuries or limited capability to navigate long airport distances. The 1986 Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines to provide free wheelchair service to anyone who requests it. No description or documentation is required. Related Video MarketWatch's Christopher Noble and Jim Jelter discuss which U.S. airports offer the best services for business travelers.

Airports across the country say more able-bodied travelers have figured out they can use wheelchairs for convenience, making waits a lot longer for travelers with genuine needs.

At Los Angeles International Airport, airlines and companies that provide wheelchair service estimate 15% of all requests are phony, said Lawrence Rolon, coordinator for disabled services for Los Angeles World Airports. Airport officials estimate nearly 300 wheelchair requests a day are bogus. "It's just a big mess,'' Mr. Rolon said. "Abusers are really impacting the operation.''

Seinfeld Episode 157 The Butter Shave:

JERRY: You got the job?

GEORGE: Jerry, it's fantastic. I love the people over there. They- they treat me so great. You know they think I'm handicapped, they gave me this incredible office, a great view.

JERRY: Hold on, they think you're handicapped?

GEORGE: Yeah, yeah, well, because of the cane. You should see the bathroom they gave me!

JERRY: How can you do this?

GEORGE: Jerry, let's face it, I've always been handicapped. I'm just now getting the recognition for it. Name one thing I have that puts me in a position of advantage. Huh? There was a guy that worked at the Yankees-- no arms! He got more work done than I did, made more money, had a wife, a family, drove a better car than I did.

JERRY: He drove a car with no arms?

GEORGE: All right, I made up the part about the car, but the rest is true. And he hated me anyway!

JERRY: Do you know how hard it's getting just to tell people I know you?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pure Michigan

Robert from Michigan e-mails to share a video:

Being of Irish-Polish descent, I never wanted for a drink. But, paczkis are another story. More ammo for your Michigan screeds. Don't know if you have anything comparable.

Anything comparable here in Minnesota? You just might be able to make a similar video with footage from the State Fair.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

G Mobile

Rep. Jackson Lee warns against more spending cuts:

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) urged her colleagues to reach a compromise to prevent spending cuts through sequestration, arguing that government programs are already as lean as they can be.

"We're at the bone almost, and sequester, that is across-the-board cuts, will literally destroy us and put us in a recession," she said on the House floor Wednesday.

You remember the “Obamaphone” clip that garnered attention during last fall’s campaign?

It turns out that while the details are a bit different from what the enthusiastic Obama supporter described, there is indeed a government program to subsidize mobile phones for poor Americans. And the budget for that program has grown significantly under President Obama. And-prepare to be stunned-that program involves significant waste and fraud.

Abuse Concerns Grow on Phone Aid for Poor (WSJ):

Regulators looking into the burgeoning federal program to provide subsidized phone service for the poor are finding growing cause for concern.

Last year, the government spent an estimated $2.2 billion on the Lifeline program, up from $819 million four years earlier, as dozens of small companies were authorized to start providing the service.
Now, inquiries in states from Alaska to Florida are raising questions about the source of that growth, according to a review of documents in federal and state investigations.

Investigators say they have turned up some unorthodox tactics by companies participating in the program, such as signing up customers in hospital rooms and enrolling subscribers by mailing them unsolicited phones. In other cases they have uncovered more straightforward attempts to sign up ineligible customers, according to federal and state documents.

While the inquiries have touched only a small number of the dozens of companies that provide the wireless service, they reflect regulators' growing concern that a program aimed at ensuring people have the ability to call their families, jobs or for emergency help has got out of hand as the number of companies providing the service has exploded.

"Waste and fraud in this vital program are simply unacceptable," said Federal Communications Commission spokeswoman Tammy Sun.

And yet they are apparently rampant. Imagine that. When you read the details of the story of how this government program with the best intentions has gone awry (sound familiar?), a couple of things stand out:

1. The lack of accountability is astounding. Until last year, the FCC allowed customers to “self certify” that they qualified for the program and required no documentation. They basically let companied sign customers up for the program, submit bills to the government for the service provided, and paid them with little oversight or concern for where the money was going. This is just one small program (a mere $2.2B a year) and it’s not an isolated case. It’s just an example what takes place in government programs when it’s all too easy to spend someone else’s money.

2. The notions that government programs are “as lean as they can be” or that “we’ve already cut to the bone” appear ludicrous when considered alongside stories like this. Whether you believe that providing phones to its citizens is truly a proper function of government or not, it’s hard to argue given the facts of the this story that the program would be “destroyed” if it was subject to a 3% budget cut (as part of sequestration) or even a 10% budget cut as part of an across the board effort to reduce the deficit. There’s still a lot of layers of fat left before we start getting close to the bone.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

HWX, The Horse Whisperers

The Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) podcast returns, taped yesterday for a special Friday night edition.  Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas and John Hinderaker of Power Line convene on a cold Minnesota night to discuss the big issues of the past week.These include:

  • The weather (cold, snowy)
  • The alcohol they're drinking while broadcasting (Hudson's Bay blended scotch whiskey and Rolling Rock)
  • High school dance line competitions
  • President Obama's State of the Union address
  • The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI
  • Meteors
  • Horse meat
  • Loon of the Week (a CNN anchor sees global warming in blizzards and meteors, but not - yet - horse meat)
  • This Week in Gatekeeping (newspaper confusion over who just bought them, a buffet vs. Warren Buffett)
Many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mothership at Ricochet.   You can be sure to never miss an episode, by subscribing via iTunes or Feedburner.  Or just use the player embedded below or in the upper right hand corner of this web site.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from the written transcript.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXVIII)

Another better late than never edition of the increasingly irregular Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the cozy folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to fill your craving for comfort booze.

In the last few years it’s been difficult to keep up the number of new breweries popping up in these parts. One that’s been around a bit longer is Stillwater’s Lift Bridge Brewery featured in this episode of Brewing TV:

With a solid lineup of beers that’s been slowly but surely expanding, Lift Bridge has become an established presence on the local scene. One that I imagine is going to last even if the current craft beer bubble does at some point burst. Our Beer of the Week is Lift Bridge’s Hop Dish IPA.

Six pack of twelve ounce bottles retails for $9.99. Label is a departure from previous Lift Bridge looks with a rather simple yet sharp design with olive green, yellow, red, and brown colors.

STYLE: India Pale Ale


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

AROMA (0-2): Lots of piney, citrusy hops. 2

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

TASTE (0-5): Taste mostly follows the smell with hop flavors of pine, grapefruit, and mango upfront. There are sweet caramel malt flavors as well which provide more balance than many IPAs. Medium bodied with good carbonation. Mouthfeel is oily and smooth. Good drinkability with the heat largely muted. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Bitterness at the finish that follows through. 2

OVERALL (0-6): A really nice IPA that offers more balance and smoothness than usually found in the style. It’s by no means a big hop bomb, yet still brings enough tasty hop flavors to satisfy. Another welcome addition to the Minnesota beer scene from Lift Bridge. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Controlling the Cradle

The words “early childhood education” sound so good that it’s difficult for people to be objective when discussing the subject. Like “puppies” or “sunshine” it’s difficult to imagine why anyone would not like it. What kind of ogre must be you be to be against early childhood education? Besides on the surface it seems to make sense. The earlier you start to educate children, the better the results you’ll see later in life. That’s obvious, isn’t it?

So when President Obama proposes universal pre-school for all children in the SOTU address, it’s easy to imagine many folks nodding their heads and thinking “yeah, that sounds like a good idea.” The problem is that the facts don’t necessarily support the feel good sentiment of early childhood education.

Pre-K Government:

Mr. Obama claimed that "study after study" showed every dollar of pre-Kindergarten "investment" saves seven dollars later on, through better student performance, graduation rates and the like. Keep this man away from a stock portfolio, let alone the social sciences. In December, Mr. Obama's own Health and Human Services Department released an evaluation of Head Start, the 47-year-old program for low-income toddlers, and concluded that any cognitive gains disappeared by the third grade. HHS had sat on the legally mandated study for more than a year.

Most other academic studies have also found early educational intervention "fade out" and that these programs rarely achieve what they promise. Russ Whitehurst of the Brookings Institution wrote Wednesday that the available studies supporting universal pre-K were "thin empirical gruel." Researchers at the Heritage Foundation and the conservative sociologist Charles Murray have come to similar conclusions. This is about as close to an intellectual policy consensus as Washington gets.

Though Mr. Obama's universal pre-K agenda seemed to emerge from nowhere, it goes back to his 2008 campaign platform that included a "zero-to-five" education plan that "begins at birth." It's further proof that liberals measure government success not by results, but by good intentions and how much government spends.

Those who support early childhood education can cite studies that support their position just as opponents cite other studies that don’t. The point is that this is by no means a settled matter and those who try to claim it is are being disingenuous. So before we sign on to spend billions of additional dollars on education and once again expand the scope of the government, we better have a pretty good idea that what we’re going to do is actually going to work.

And even then, we should have a discussion about whether this really yet another area of life that we want to turn over to the government. It’s easy to use helping children as your justification for more government as the DFL is doing by calling for an expansion of the free school lunch program in Minnesota. The problem comes when determining where the limits to government intervening to help children are.

We’re at the point now where we’ve pretty much allowed the government to educate and feed kids starting in kindergarten. Next, we’re going to give the government responsibility for “pre-K” education. Well, shouldn’t the government feed those kids too? And why wait until the kids are three or four? Wouldn’t it be even better if the government could get involved earlier on? We know how critical the early years are in a child’s development. If we really want to help children, do we really want to leave that development solely in the hands of the parents?

Talk of government education plans that “begin at birth” should give anyone who values individual liberty pause. No matter how good the words “early childhood education” might sound.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Voice in the Wilderness

With the announcement that Pope Benedict the XVI is resigning due to health concerns, there has been a lot of speculation in the media about what sort of changes might be in store with a new pope as well as plenty of suggestions for how the next pontiff could lead the Catholic Church in new directions. Most of this is pap and pabulum spouted by people with little understanding of the history and workings of the Catholic Church and little interest in seeing the church strengthened and reinvigorated. Their attitude can be boiled down to: wouldn’t it great if the Catholic Church thought the same way I did about the social issues that I deem important?

A notable exception to the ill informed commentary on the next pope and the future of the church is a piece it today’s WSJ called Catholics Need a Pope for the 'New Evangelization' by George Weigel. Weigel has long been one of the most authoritative and insightful voices on Catholicism and his track record of writing on the Catholic Church and its leaders mean that Catholics and others interested in what challenges lie ahead for the next pope would do well to listen to what he has to say.

So at this hinge moment, when the door is closing on the Counter-Reformation church in which every Catholic over 50 was raised, and as the door opens to the evangelical Catholicism of the future, what are the challenges facing the new pope?
Catholicism is dying in its historic heartland, Europe. The new pope must fan the frail flames of renewal that are present in European Catholicism. But he must also challenge Euro-Catholics to understand that only a robust, unapologetic proclamation of the Gospel can meet the challenge of a Christophobic public culture that increasingly regards biblical morality as irrational bigotry.

The new pope must be a vigorous defender of religious freedom throughout the world. Catholicism is under assault by the forces of jihadist Islam in a band of confrontation that runs across the globe from the west coast of Senegal to the eastern islands of Indonesia.

Christian communities in the Holy Land are under constant, often violent, pressure. In the West, religious freedom is being reduced to a mere "freedom of worship," with results like the ObamaCare Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate.
Thus the new pope must be a champion of religious freedom for all, insisting with John Paul II and Benedict XVI that there can be neither true freedom nor true democracy without religious freedom in full. That means the right of both individuals of conscience and religious communities to live their lives according to their most deeply held convictions, and the right to bring those convictions into public life without civil penalty or cultural ostracism.

This defense of religious freedom will be one string in the bow of the new pope's responsibility to nurture the rapidly growing Catholic communities in Africa, calling them to a new maturity of faith. It should also frame the new pope's approach to the People's Republic of China, where persecution of Christians is widespread. When China finally opens itself fully to the world, it will be the greatest field of Christian mission since the Europeans came to the Western Hemisphere. Like his two immediate predecessors, the new pope should recognize that the church's future mission in China will be imperiled by any premature deal-making with the Chinese Communist regime, which would also involve an evangelical betrayal of those Chinese Christians who are making daily sacrifices for fidelity to Jesus Christ.

The ambient public culture of the West will demand that the new pope embrace some form of Catholic Lite. But that counsel of cultural conformism will have to reckon with two hard facts: Wherever Catholic Lite has been embraced in the past 40 years, as in Western Europe, the church has withered and is now dying. The liveliest parts of the Catholic world, within the United States and elsewhere, are those that have embraced the Catholic symphony of truth in full. In responding to demands that he change the unchangeable, however, the new pope will have to demonstrate that every time the Catholic Church says "No" to something—such as abortion or same-sex marriage—that "No" is based on a prior "Yes" to the truths about human dignity the church learns from the Gospel and from reason.

And that suggests a final challenge for Gregory XVII, Leo XIV, John XXIV, Clement XV, or whoever the new pope turns out to be: He must help an increasingly deracinated world—in which there may be your truth and my truth, but nothing recognizable as the truth—rediscover the linkage between faith and reason, between Jerusalem and Athens, two of the pillars of Western civilization. When those two pillars crumble, the third pillar—Rome, the Western commitment to the rule of law—crumbles as well. And the result is what Benedict XVI aptly styled the dictatorship of relativism.

What kind of man can meet these challenges? A radically converted Christian disciple who believes that Jesus Christ really is the answer to the question that is every human life. An experienced pastor with the courage to be Catholic and the winsomeness to make robust orthodoxy exciting. A leader who is not afraid to straighten out the disastrous condition of the Roman Curia, so that the Vatican bureaucracy becomes an instrument of the New Evangelization, not an impediment to it.

Those responsible for selecting the next pope definitely have their work cut out for them.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXVII)

Another irregular edition of the no longer so aptly named Beer of the Week sponsored as always by hearty folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to make it through the deepest drifts of winter.

Each year it seems that the cold weather of winter brings more and more “big” winter beers. These beers include imperial stouts and even imperial porters with high alcohol content and bold, rich flavors. Don’t get me wrong, these beers can be delicious and the perfect restorative after a frigid winter day. But sometimes they can also be a bit too much. Too rich. Too bold. Too big.

So it’s a nice change to have a new winter seasonal with more modest aspirations. Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift Vanilla Porter:

Celebrate shorter days with a fuller body. Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift Vanilla Porter is brewed with a select blend of seven malts revealing layers of caramel, chocolate and coffee notes. Aged on real vanilla, this brown and ruby-hued brew imparts a slightly spicy aroma from its creamy body that’s ideal for the season

Six pack of twelve ounce bottles goes for $7.99. Label follows the usual Leinie design with a snowy winter scene in the background.

STYLE: Porter


COLOR (0-2): Dark ruby brown. 2

AROMA (0-2): Sour malt with just a touch of vanilla. 2

HEAD (0-2): Tan color. Minimal volume that fades quickly with not much retention. 1

TASTE (0-5): Roasted malts accented with more noticeable flavors of vanilla and cocoa and lighter hints of coffee and caramel. The mouthfeel is smooth and watery. Medium bodied and very drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Cocoa and coffee flavors linger pleasantly. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Snowdrift Vanilla Porter is a solid if unspectacular winter offering from Leinenkugel’s. It’s not big and it’s not bold, but it’s a good beer at a good price. And its drinkability makes it a good choice for a winter to have when you’re having more than one. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

HWX, with Glenn Reynolds

The Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) returns for some fiery conversation on a cold night in the Twin Cities. John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas discuss the Super Bowl, the holes in the souls, and gun control, including Barack Obama's visit to Minneapolis Monday to talk about his latest gun grabbing initiative.

Next Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, stops by to talk about his latest book, The K-12 Implosion.  The man who years ago predicted the bursting of the Higher Education Bubble now sees the future of ever more expensive, yet quality-challenged government education (boom!). It's the latest in the Encounter Broadside series and can be yours for 6 bucks (cheap). Then, last week's winner of the Ricochet Listener/Member of the Week, Lydens Cheng, joins us to tell us her journey from Cambodia to UTEP to Ricochet and she gives us this week's Phrase That Pays.

We wrap up with the Loon of the Week (the wit and wisdom of Chuck Hagel) and This Week in Gatekeeping (what the Chicago Tribune thinks it knows about assault weapons).

Many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mothership at Ricochet.   You can be sure to never miss an episode, by subscribing via iTunes or Feedburner.  Or just use the player embedded below or in the upper right hand corner of this web site.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from the written transcript.  Enjoy!

Something's Cooking in the Labs

Party Eyes 'Red-State Model' to Drive Republican Revival:

Either way, economists agree it could be years before clear conclusions can be drawn from the experiments under way in Kansas and other states.

If successful, the combined tax cuts and pared government spending could reignite slumbering state economies and draw in new residents, while positioning Mr. Brownback and governors such as Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and Indiana's Mike Pence for potential White House bids.

But if they fall short, the policies could leave Kansas and other states scrambling to fill big budget holes for education and social services, while driving investors to other states.

The tax gambles under way in the red states contrast sharply with proposals put forward by some Democratic governors. The governors of Minnesota and Massachusetts have proposed raising income taxes while cutting the sales tax. The trend promises to create unusually stark divisions between conservative and liberal states.

Elections in November left all but 13 states with one-party control of both the legislature and the governor's office, the most in decades. Fully half of all states now have veto-proof legislative majorities, making intraparty disagreements the chief potential threat to legislative agendas.

The reality is that the health of a state’s economy is dependent on numerous factors and government policy is only one of them. If Minnesota booms and Kansas busts or vice versa, it doesn’t necessarily validate the success of either the blue state or the red state model. However, with so many states now so clearly divided into one camp or another it will be interesting to watch as their experiments in democracy play out in the years ahead. I just wish I lived in a state where those conducting the experiments were wearing red lab coats.