Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pride Goeth Before a Fall

From the Star Tribune's promotion of this weekend's Twin Cities Pride Festival:

The annual Pride parade is nothing short of a spectacle, with participants as colorful as the floats. Look for appearances from the North Star Roller Girls, North Star Gay Rodeo, Dykes on Bikes, former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak and current mayor Betsy Hodges. 

For some reason I envision RT Rybak having a discussion like this with his publicist this morning:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Common Core

Some people say that love is the international language. Based on a recent experience in the Netherlands, I would argue that beer is.

I was on a business trip in Ede, which is a town in the central part of the country between Utrecht and Arnhem. The population of the greater Ede area is around 107,000, but it has a quiet, laid back atmosphere. Knowing that I would have some time outside of work to explore, I hopped on the internets to see what Ede had to offer in terms of beer.

I was surprised to discover that there was a brewery in the area called De Heidebrouwerij (which translates as “Heather Brewery”). Not only that, it was but a short walk from my hotel. Excellent. The next challenge was finding a time to drop by for a visit.

All the people who wail and gnash their teeth because they can’t buy beer from at liquor stores on Sundays in Minnesota would likely not fare well in many European countries. While you can buy beer on Sundays in the Netherlands, finding a store that’s open isn’t always easy. And during the weekday, many stores close up shop at 5pm or 6pm.

Such was also the case with the brewery in Ede. It was closed on Mondays and Wednesdays and only open until 5pm Tuesday and Thursday. It was open until 8pm on Friday night and since I was heading home on Saturday morning, that was my only window.

I didn’t make it there until 7:30pm since I had some shopping to first. By the time I arrived, I was hungry, tired, hot, and thirsty (mostly thirsty). The brewery is located on the grounds of a former military base in a building that was once a kitchen. The area around the base is woody and they had a nice outdoor seating area to enjoy the surroundings and the weather (like Minnesota warm sunny days are precious in the Netherlands).


Shortly after dropping into a chair, a waitress approached and asked what I would like to drink. At least I assume she did since everything she said was in Dutch. I asked if she spoke English and she said, “A little.” I reasoned that should be enough to get a beer and asked what type of beers they had. “I’ll get the brewer, my son,” she responded.

Cool. The man himself.

A young chap approached my table and went through their selections. His English was quite good and he ran through the options in detail. I quickly settled on a choice which I believe was the Veluwe Heath Beer. After enjoying a couple of more offerings (from a different waitress), including a quadruple ale that knocked my socks off, I noticed that the young brewer was sitting nearby and struck up a conversation with him.

We talked about all things beer, including the craft beer boom in the US, how it’s becoming more popular in the Netherlands, and the story behind how the Heather Brewery got started. It turned out that Jaap’s father had long been a home brewer and after getting laid from an IT job in 2009, he fulfilled a long held dream of opening his own brewery. His son said he wanted to do it with his dad and so jumped in with him. And the first waitress I had encountered was his mom and the second his sister. For good measure, his brother-in-law also worked at the brewery. A true family affair.

Soon thereafter, his father appeared on the scene and Jaap introduced me. His name was Gerrit although he said he went by Jerry to English speakers. We talked even more beer and I learned more about the brewery’s background. They were extremely hospitable and spent a good deal of time indulging my curiosity.

It was well after 8pm, but it was apparent that was not a hard closing time. After a while, they had to get back to business and I went inside the brewery to check out their small store. Jerry found me again and we resumed our beer conversation. He mentioned that they were currently brewing a British Brown Ale called Pegasus (as in Operation Pegasus) which would be available in September to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the battles that had been fought in the area in World War II as part of Operation Market Garden. He then disappeared for a bit before returning with a bottle of said beer which he had quickly labeled.

It was a gift and he advised that I not open it for at least 2-3 weeks since it wasn’t ready yet. I realized that I would now be checking my luggage on the way home.

We then got into a discussion of World War II and I mentioned the movie “A Bridge Too Far.” Jerry then beamed and revealed that he was an extra in the film and had played German, British, and American soldiers in different scenes. Beer, history, and a movie? Does it get any better?

Eventually, I did have to depart and get back to my hotel while I could still walk reasonably straight. I told Jaap and Jerry that I would tell my work colleagues about their brewery and visit again the time I was in town. It’s always nice when you experience a little pleasure on a business trip.

Jaap and Jerry

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Avoid Fun

Summer has officially rolled around and so we’re getting the usual fluff pieces with advice on how your kids can fun and stay safe, with a special emphasis on the latter. Lenore Skenazy reviews one such list of summer safety tips:

Now's the time for summer fun...warnings. New Jersey's Star Ledger lists "46 ways to have a safer NJ summer." That's right, almost 50 helpful precautions to digest before the children of the Garden State are faced with the horror of the great outdoors.

The tips range from the helpful ("If you're caught in a rip current...swim parallel to the shore") to the blindingly obvious ("Use insect repellent") to the stunningly, blindingly, in case you just arrived from Alpha Centauri obvious ("If you see a bear while out hiking, do not feed or approach it"). Really? Not even if it's a cute cub out with its mama?

While it's not a bad idea to learn how to take a bee stinger out (although the words "venom sac" do give pause), it is truly a terrible idea to plan for an afternoon outside as if it's the invasion of Normandy.

Some of these tips almost guarantee you and/or your kids will cower inside all day with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare instead of heading out to enjoy the warm weather.

For instance:

"Avoid forests"

Swear to God, the list says to avoid God's gift. After all, you could get ticks.


"Soak in the sun...for five to 10 minutes a day."

If you go out for any longer than that unslathered in sunscreen, you might as well call Sloan-Kettering right now.

"Talk to the lifeguards"

That is, distract them from looking out for drowning folks while you grill them about "water conditions and the existence of dangerous currents."

"Don't dig too deep"

Because once, in 2012, a child smothered in a sand tunnel, you should worry about every hole your kids dig from now on.

And my favorite:

"Supervise children on playgrounds. Adults should always [boldface, mine] be nearby when children are on playgrounds. When kids are playing on the equipment, they can sometimes stumble or become off balance for a moment....If parents are nearby, they can catch the child before they fall and possibly injure themselves."

So put down that peach, stop talking to the other moms, and stand, arms outstretched, under the jungle gym. After all, your kid could "become off balance for a moment." No children have ever been known to survive that condition.

Be prepared.


And remember, have fun.

Up the Academy

From John Derbyshire, a grand unified theory of the American higher education system. How does one reconcile institutions founded for the purpose of higher learning and rational inquiry with behavior such as banning speakers they disagree with, campus speech codes, rigid uniformity of faculty political beliefs, and general unremitting advocacy of liberlism?  Here's how:

Our universities, after a few aberrant decades of experimenting with open inquiry and the advance of knowledge, have reverted to their medieval purpose (the purpose that Chinese high education always had): to train an intellectual elite for the propagation and defense of the state ideology.  Then it was Christianity (in China, Confucianism); now it is utopian egalitarianism - "political correctness," the Narrative.  The advance of knowledge can go hang.

Not only is this a sorry state of affairs, it's nothing new.  They're just behaving in tired, old, brutish, conformist, pre-Enlightenment ways.

Those of us bemusedly observing this from the outside, and left to suffer the consequences, are perhaps given only this solace, as articulated in the movie Good Will Hunting:

Clark: Yeah, but I will have a degree. And you'll be servin' my kids fries at a drive-thru on our way to a skiing trip.

Will: That may be, but at least I won't be unoriginal.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXCII)

The latest edition of Beer of the Week is sponsored as always by the healthy minded folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can find the beer, wine, or whiskey to fit any dietary requirements.

Monday’s WSJ had an article on the growing popularity of gluten-free foods:

Nowhere has the chaotic cycle of influence between U.S. consumers and food companies been more pronounced than in the gluten-free craze. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye—three of the earliest crops domesticated by humans in the Fertile Crescent some 10,000 years ago. Its elastic structure makes it well-suited for baking, but triggers an autoimmune response in a small number of people that damages their intestines.

About two million to three million Americans, less than 1% of the population, suffer from that hereditary condition, known as celiac disease. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness says research shows another 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity, experiencing discomfort without the intestinal damage.

Gluten-free foods began gaining wider currency as better diagnostic tests were developed for celiac disease, making more people aware that they had it and needed to adjust their diet. In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration proposed labeling rules defining how much gluten could be in products labeled gluten-free, amplifying interest further.

Some doctors began suggesting eliminating gluten from patients' diets to address mysterious maladies. Celebrities began jumping on the bandwagon, touting it as a way to lose weight and boost energy. In the course of a few years, the mold was set: Today, gluten-free products can be found in every traditional supermarket and mass retailer, including specialty brands and established names like Tyson and General Mills Inc. GIS -0.27% There's even gluten-free dog food. Global retail sales of products specifically formulated to be gluten-free have nearly doubled since 2007 to $2.1 billion last year, according to Euromonitor International.


It’s still not clear whether a gluten-free diet has health benefits for those who don’t have an auto immune reaction to gluten.

You don’t have to look far to see examples of gluten-free products popping up everywhere. You would think it difficult to produce a beer without wheat, barley, or rye, , but a local brewery in St. Paul is doing just that. Burning Brothers Brewery:

At Burning Brothers, we make beer. In fact, we make great beer. In fact, we make really great gluten-free beer. In fact, we make beer so good that Celiacs cry when they taste it.

Why? Because we get it. We’ve been there and we know what you’re going through. Our calling is to bring the freedom to drink beer back to everyone who is gluten-free. We want to not only give you that freedom, but to push the envelope and bring you flavors you’ve never tasted before.

Burning Brothers is committed 100% to gluten-free. We don’t use gluten-free filtering, gluten-free enzymes or any other gluten-free gimmicks. Instead we use naturally gluten-free ingredients to create great-tasting and unique beers for you.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy. You no longer need to fear the beer.


My previous experience with gluten-free beer was not a good one so there was reason for fear when I tried Burning Brother’s Pyro American Pale Ale.

Four pack of sixteen ounce cans sells for $10.99. Really cool looking design with a sharp logo.

STYLE: Pale Ale

ALCOHOL BY VOLUME: 4.6%

HEAD (0-2): White color with good volume. 2

COLOR (0-2): Very light gold and quite clear. 1

AROMA (0-2): Decent hoppy scents. 2

TASTE (0-5): There is an astringent, metallic flavor that takes some getting used to. The beer does mellow as it warms with more typical pale ale flavors emerging. I would suggest letting this sit in the glass for a few minutes before diving in. Carbonation is good and it has a medium body. Low alcohol content and drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Metallic flavors lingers. 1

OVERALL (0-6): This is definitely the best gluten-free I have tried. That may be a low bar, but if you can’t stomach gluten and you’re looking for a beer that comes pretty close to delivering real flavors without the pain this is a great choice. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 12

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Land of the Free

Want to make the Fourth of July more meaningful for you and your family this year? Check out the Fourth of July Declaration from Dennis Prager:

In just a few short weeks, Americans will celebrate July 4th with fireworks, hot dogs, and backyard games. We'd like to share with you another activity, something a bit more meaningful, something that Dennis Prager created four years ago -- the Fourth of July Declaration .

What is the Fourth of July Declaration? It's a fun, 10-minute ceremony that reminds all of us what Independence Day really means. Our Declaration ceremony may very well be the highlight of your July 4th. Most of all, it will help young people understand why America is exceptional.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Memories

I rushed home from school on Friday, February 22, 1980. I headed over to my friend Mark's house. We were twelve year old boys and there was a hockey game on the radio.  A lot of people misremember, but the game was not televised live. We sat in Mark's basement and listened to the broadcast of the US playing the Soviet Union in Olympic Hockey. Midway through the third period, Mike Eruzione scored the game winning goal of what became known as the "Miracle on Ice." We screamed and got even louder in the following minutes as the USA held off the vaunted Russians in the final minutes of the game. It was a joyous day. Ronald Reagan was out on the campaign trail and wouldn't enter the White House for nearly a year, yet I still consider that day to be the beginning of Reagan's America.

On Monday, June 15, 2014, I rushed away from work and headed to my regular Monday night watering hole. The US was playing Ghana in World Cup, and it happened to be on the TV. Late in the game, some guy from the US scored a goal to finish the scoring and give the US a 2-1 victory. The crowd went wild, as I concentrated on eating a slice of bacon & tomato pizza. I consider that day the culmination of Obama's America. Actually, it would have been more appropriate if they tied.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Free Book and Mudflap Girl


Our friend Mark Yost has a new book out this weekend.  In fact, it's the first of a new noir crime series featuring New York private investigator Rick Crain.   It's called Cooper's Daughter, and as a one day special promotion, the Kindle edition is absolutely FREE today (Sunday, June 15).  You can download here, at Amazon.

This books is a product of Stay Thirsty publishing, and as such is more of a novella than a novel, structured to be shorter in length, and as Mark says:  the perfect read for a two-hour plane ride, or for people who don't have enough free time to read another 10-page description of the fuse on an air-to-ground missile.

I haven't read it yet, but I've enjoyed Mark's past works, both his fiction (with the Nick Mattera series, Soft Target and the Cartel) and his journalism at the Wall Street Journal and Houston Business Journal.   The combination of Yost's prose and the image of mudflap girl in pink neon on the cover makes me think Cooper's Daughter is destined to be a classic.

We'll have him on the HWX podcast soon to discuss.   So you can adequately prepare for the discussion, don't forget to download it for FREE today on Amazon.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ain't That A Kick In The Nuts

It goes without saying that Chad's recent post ridiculing US soccer fans is spot on. While he focuses on the pretensions of US soccer fans, there are a few annoying things about US soccer that he didn't touch on.

Let's start with the fact that the United States is really mediocre (at best) at soccer. There are plenty of good reasons the US isn't a soccer power, the main reason being that few really talented American kids choose soccer as their main sport. However, that doesn't stop America from dominating in other sports that the general public doesn't care about, including track and field, swimming, and figure skating.

Part of America's domination in many sports is simply a numbers game. With a population of 300 million, few countries have larger populations than the US. China and India have more citizens, and Indonesia is close. Yet the US isn't beaten by large countries. We're beaten by countries like the Ukraine, Costa Rica and Mexico. This has led to a lot of excuse making. 

One excuse I particularly dislike that is unique to the World Cup is the routine practice of fans in naming a particular group in each tournament as "group of death." "Group of death" really means a tough division, as exactly two teams from each four team division advance to the second round. Since the draws for divisions are random, some are unbalanced. However, to with the championship, a team must beat a lot of good teams, so stop complaining and win (or tie) your games. No one has ever called the NFC West the "Division of Death," and that's a good thing.

This year, the US is considered in the "Group of Death," along with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. Let's think about that for a minute. I can stomach the idea that Germany might be a threat to the US. After all, we played them for all the geopolitical marbles twice in the last century. But Portugal? Is Prince Henry the Navigator still dominating the world? Portugal is a glorified suburb of Spain. And Ghana? Here is a Wikipedia fact snippet about Ghana:

Ghana is the 82nd−largest country in the world and 33rd−largest country on continental Africa by land mass, and Ghana has a land mass of 238,535 km2, with 2,093 kilometres of international land borders. Ghana is the 7th−best governed country on continental Africa, and Ghana is a constitutional democracy divided into ten administrative regions, and the world's 49th−most inhabited nation with a multiethnic population of around 24 million as of 2010.

I'd note that the 7th best governed country in continental Africa knocked the US out of the last World Cup.

Finally, the coach of the US team, Jurgen Klinsmann, has suggested that, "to say we should win the World Cup is just not realistic."

How much is wrong with this last sentence. Here are just a two things:
  • Can you imagine Herb Brooks saying something like this? The US probably had less chance against the evil Soviet empire in hockey in 1980, but instead of making excuses, Herb rolled up his sleeves and engineered one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
  • Jurgen Klinsmann doesn't sound like an American name. And it isn't. Klinsmann is German. With 300 million people, we couldn't find one decent soccer coach, or at least a coach that wouldn't concede defeat a week before the tournament.
I know people will dismiss my rant as that of a soccer hater. I actually don't hate soccer. Watching little kids play this sport this summer is extremely enjoyable. It's a funny paradox, soccer is great fun to play, is ok to to watch, and is not fun at all to follow.

SAB Redux

I know we've done this before, but it's worth reiterating that the boys from KTLK-AM Newstalk Radio's Up & At 'Em morning radio program


are dead ringers for the gay couple Cameron and Mitchell from ABC TV's Modern Family


Friday, June 13, 2014

The Personal and The Public

Is it just me or are those memorial stickers on cars just a tad creepy?


Apparently is isn't already enough to know:
  •         Your politics
  •         Your religion
  •         Your sexual preferences
  •         What sports teams you cheer for
  •         Where you went to college
  •         That your kid is an honor student/Eagle Scout/accordion player
  •         What kind of dog/cat/gerbil you have as a pet  
  •         What countries/states/cities/towns/parks/drug stores you’ve visited or hope to visit
  •         That you can run 13.1 miles
Now I have also get to see who you’re missing and mourning for? Way too much information.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ain't That a Kick in the Head?

The 2014 World Cup starts this Thursday in Brazil and while people all over the globe anxiously await its kickoff, in America there are once again few signs of feverish interest in the event.

Last Friday’s WSJ had several articles devoted to the World Cup including one penned by an Englishman calling out American soccer fans. A Brit taking US soccer fans to task? Really? Despite the seemingly absurd premise, the author turned out to be spot on in his criticisms.

The Problem With American Soccer Fans:

The problem is your soccer obsessives. By my reckoning, they may be the most derivative, excessive and utterly ridiculous collection of sports fans on the planet.

If you've ever stumbled across this tribe as they spill out of a bar on Saturday mornings after 90 minutes spent watching a game contested by two teams based thousands of miles away, you'll know the sort of fans I'm talking about.

They refer to the sport as "fĂștbol," hold long conversations about the finer points of the 4-4-2 formation and proudly drape team scarves around their necks even when the temperature outside is touching 90 degrees.

It is this band of soccer junkies who have turned the simple pleasure I used to derive from heading to a bar to watch a game into something more akin to undergoing root canal surgery.

t's not that they all have the same stories about study-abroad trips to Europe, or that they get wildly excited about the simplest saves, or even, for inexplicable reasons, that 90% of soccer fans in the U.S. seem to root for Arsenal.

My biggest gripe is that all of this feels like an elaborate affectation.

Instead of watching the game in the time-honored way of American sports fans—by thrusting a giant foam finger in the air, say, or devouring a large plate of Buffalo wings—your soccer fanatics have taken to aping the behavior of our fans from across the pond.

The scarves thing is an obvious example, but it's far from the only one. There's the self-conscious use of terms like "pitch," "match" and "kit," the songs lifted directly from English soccer stadiums, and even the appropriation of terrace couture.

On a recent weekend, I went to a bar to watch the UEFA Champions League final and found myself stationed next to a soccer fan wearing a replica Arsenal jersey, a team scarf around his neck and a pair of Dr. Martens lace-ups. He looked like he he'd been born and raised along the Holloway Road. In fact, he was from Virginia.

The whole thing seemed to be less an expression of genuine fandom and more like an elaborate piece of performance art. Didn't we fight a war so you guys wouldn't have to take cues on how to behave from London?


Yes, yes we did.

A good rule of thumb is that the less popular a sport is, the more insular, insecure, arrogant, and annoying its fans are. Among the big four sports in the US, hockey fans are sometimes guilty of displaying these negative attributes in their defense of the wonders of their preferred sport. I know that hockey will never be as popular as football, baseball, or basketball in the United States, but I don’t care. If you like hockey great, if you don’t it’s your loss. Which is why I’ve against things like expanding the NHL to non-traditional hockey markets, the glowing puck on Fox, or other efforts to make the game more “approachable” to more fans. The game is great as is. Changing it to appeal to people who aren’t hockey fans isn’t going to make it better, it’s going to make it less appealing to those of us already in thrall to it.

But as bad as hockey fans can sometimes be, they can’t hold a candle to US soccer fans. What really makes the soccer fans especially precious and irritating is the way the wrap themselves up in a scarf of superiority based on the love of the sport overseas (especially in Europe) and its rejection here. They project an elite air because while ignorant Americans spend their time watching football, they have become enlightened and love the real futbol instead. They’re like snot nosed college kids who spend two semesters studying in Europe and then come back to America and tell you how everything-trains, food, work attitudes-is better over there.

Unlike many of my compatriots I don’t dislike soccer. And unlike most Americans, I will take an interest in and follow the World Cup. But I’ll do it in the same way I do with other sports, as an American. And I won’t call it futbol.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXCI)

This week’s beer is a relative newcomer in these parts and is brewed by Oskar Blues:

OUR FUNKY LITTLE COLORADO GROWN BREW-PUB THAT STARTED TEN YEARS AGO BY STUFFING OUR HUGE, VOLUMINOUSLY HOPPED MUTHA OF A PALE ALE IN A CAN (DALE'S PALE ALE) NOT ONLY BEGAN THE CRAFT-BEER-IN-A-CAN CRAZE, BUT HAS GROWN TO ADD A BREWERY TO THE HILLS OF PISGAH NATIONAL FOREST IN BREVARD, NC. CANS KEEP BEER FRESHER, LONGER BY ELIMINATING THE DAMAGING EFFECTS OF LIGHT AND INGRESSED OXYGEN WHILE BEING INFINITELY RECYCLABLE AND PORTABLE...TAKING THEM WHERE YOUR NEXT SOUL SAVING ADVENTURE TAKES YOU.

Yes, they really are that excited about their brewery’s story that they need to use all caps. I’ve been to the Oskar Blues brew pub in Longmont, Colorado more than a few times and it features dang good food to go with their usually great beers. And they were one of the first to go with cans in what is becoming an increasingly common packaging choice for craft brewers.

Our beer of the week is one of Oskar Blues year round offerings, Deviant Dale’s IPA.

Four pack of sixteen ounce cans sells for $10.99. Silver black and red can design is sharp.

STYLE: IPA

ALCOHOL BY VOLUME: 8.0%

HEAD (0-2): White color with good volume. 2

COLOR (0-2): Golden brown. 2

AROMA (0-2): Floral hops with a little sweetness. 2

TASTE (0-5): Nice balance of flavors with a more malty side blending smoothly with resinous hops. Mouthfeel is a bit slick and oily. Good carbonation. It has a medium body with a smooth finish and is quite drinkable. 4

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

OVERALL (0-6): A solid IPA with more a nuanced flavor profile than most. It’s a big beer, but it still manages to be approachable. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Sunday, June 08, 2014

At No Cost to the NFL



The Star Tribune has obtained the NFL’s 154 page book of demands for cities bidding on the Super Bowl. The document is a fascinating read loaded with gold nuggets.  For example, the phrase “at no cost to the NFL” appears, by my count, 182 times in the 154 pages.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking the NFL is all about commercial exploitation of the Super Bowl; nothing could be further from the truth.  I refer you to page 32:

6. No Commercial Exploitation
The Stadium owner must agree that it will not use the Super Bowl Game in its sponsorship sales promotions or otherwise, and will not attempt to commercially exploit the designated Super Bowl, unless it obtains the NFL’s advance written approval of such use.

Thanks NFL for preserving the purity of the game!

Friday, June 06, 2014

HWX, with Aaron Clarey



It was a special Thursday night edition of the Hinderaker Ward Experience, with John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas reconvening to discuss the critical issues of our time.  Topics addressed include:

*  The curious case of Bowe Bergdahl, who is he and why didn’t the Obama administration seem to know or care?

*  Senate Democrats launching a broadside against the First Amendment

*  Getting physical with a Presidential work out

*  This Week in Gatekeeping, getting to the truth behind the real Charles Murray

They were also joined by economist, provocateur, and author Aaron Clarey.  They discuss his unique position at the confluence of realist (some would say nihilist) libertarianism and the manosphere and talk about his recent books, Enjoy the Decline and Bachelor Pad Economics.  It’s a blunt, entertaining discussion, and pending our producer’s post production editing ability, for adults only!

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mother ship at Ricochet.   You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes.  Or you can just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  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.

Monday, June 02, 2014

More Than Just The Facts

Matt Fitch on The Paradox of Expertise:

Right now, a pregnant woman is chained to a wall in Sudan for the “crime” of marrying a Christian man who is an American citizen. She is scheduled to be hanged following the birth of her son. The United States government has yet to even hint at making any kind of demands against this action. An expert in Sudanese culture and Islam may be able to explain to me why she is being put to death and particulars about the legal system of that nation. An immigration expert might be able to tell me that she is not technically an American citizen merely by marriage and that we have no legal right to interfere. An expert on international law and foreign relations may tell me that we have no right to act internationally to prevent this from happening. But none of that would matter to me, because the truth of the matter is that what is happening to this woman is wrong and evil and antithetical to everything that our nation professes to believe. None of the explanations would amount to the final judgment of right and wrong.

This is where experts get into trouble. Some – not all, of course – believe that knowledge and information equal an elevated position of making right/wrong, good/bad judgments. However, these judgments are moral and value-based judgments. They are within the comprehension of the average man or woman and, indeed, the average man or woman’s judgment in this matter holds just as much validity as any expert’s.

Part of the issue lies in the politicization of everything in our current society, including experts. Part of the issue lies in the politicization of everything in our current society, including experts. The greater knowledge and information that experts possess often affords them the ability to be elevated by both media and politicians to positions that presuppose wisdom. Thus, the passive public may just sit on their haunches and suppose that an expert is a better judge of morality than themselves. But this is an illusion brought about by their elevation in the public eye. Politicians try to piggyback on the knowledge and credentials of an expert to say that their position is ultimately the informed and morally right decision.

Knowledge and information are good to have in complex situations but they are not the final arbiter and, in some cases, may matter nothing at all. The costs of the ACA can only be judged in terms of how much we are willing to pay to administer healthcare to an individual. Everyone wants to pay for the healthcare of a little girl with Leukemia; we might feel differently about the alcoholic wife-beater who is still smoking through his tracheotomy. Likewise, intervention in Crimea or in the case of the Sudanese Christian comes down to moral right/wrong value judgments. To this we welcome the information, knowledge, and predictions of the experts but the decision on how to act and whether or not to act is ultimately a decision that can be made through a rationality available to all average men and women.


Expertise isn't the same thing as wisdom which is far more important when it comes to determining what is right and wrong. Our world would be a far better place if we placed more value in the latter rather than the former.