Why Don't I Always Read 538 First?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Once again Nate Silver is a genius. In this post, he answers all the questions I had about the health care process, including reconciliation, and more.

Read it.


What he said...

Monday, December 21, 2009

A few days old, but a good column by Paul Krugman on the Senate version of the health care reform bill.

Read it here.

Also, keep in mind people, this is not the final bill.


Over at Two Glasses, they do a nice job pulling together some of the better analysis of the health care plans, mostly from liberal perspectives. Of special note is their link the Nate Silver's analysis.


Nosmo King

Thursday, December 10, 2009

House Bill 4377 (Representative Lee Gonzales, D - Flint) passed the Senate and House today and is on the way to the Governor's desk for her signature.

This is Michigan's "Clean Indoor Air" smoking ban.

The bill exempts the 3 Detroit casinos, tobacco shops, cigar bars, home offices and freight trucks. It goes into effect May of 2010.

I don't know how all of you feel about it, but in all of my experiences in going to places like Chicago, New York, Boston, and California, I love not smelling like smoke and being stuffed up the whole next day. I like it for the employees of former-smoking establishments. I like it for public health.


BCS, Emphasis on the B and the S

Monday, December 07, 2009

So the Bowl Championship Series matchups are out and have succeeded in confusing an entire nation of football fans again, except those in Texas and Alabama. For them, it's not that they get it any better than the rest of us (Lord knows...it's Alabama...I mean come on); they're just happier with the results.

As I understand the BCS selection process:

1) Massive schools in the South and Soutwest assume their rightful places in the top 5 and stay there all season through a wiley combination of bribes, positions of tenure within this "BCS" and the assembling of weak schedules (save but for a "hard" game or two);
2) Enough latitude is given to allow some undefeated, heretofore unheard-of school recently defining itself as "Division I" to have one single spot in the BCS top 5 so as to appear like it is indeed open and competitive;
3) In December, a group of gnomes with an IBM Thinkpad are fed ESPN streaming coverage, theoretical nuclear physics textbooks, scrolls concerning weather pattern prediction from the Middle Ages, a copy of the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a duck, a random selection of adult movies and the first movement to Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. They use all of this and come up with:


For all 6 Sparty fans, we get picked to lose a horrid, flaming death to Texas Tech on January 2nd. Somehow, MSU's already-dubious selection into the BCS provides State with an opportunity to show how horribly a second-rate secondary will stand up against a school known for the veracity of its passing game.


Take a look at this year's BCS games in the link above. Consider this an open thread on college football and the need for a playoff system. Sure, as a Sparty I realize I should be careful what I wish for, as we may never appear in a playoff again. But as such, is #1 or #2 really ever #1 or #2?


America's Worst Sheriff

Thursday, December 03, 2009

I almost blogged on this a few times, but I honestly thought it would just go away and justice would prevail, but that won't happen when Joe Arpaio is involved. Well, it hasn't been an easy road. Back in late October, Maricopa (or Marikafka, as it called in many places) County Deputy Adam Stoddard stole some documents from a defense attorney, copied them, and then returned them. He initially claimed that he thought there was evidence of criminal activity (which would have allowed him to take the documents), but her materials had previously been ok'ed and the deputy contradicted himself several times during the contempt hearing.

Here is the video:

The deputy was found in contempt and the judge told him if he issued a public apology, he wouldn't have to go to jail. This seems reasonable. I don't have a problem with bailiffs being vigilant when it comes to security, but they just can't help themselves to whatever documents they want. There he to be probable cause and there simply wasn't in this case. Well, there is no way a deputy of "America's Toughest Sheriff" is going to do something as pathetic and wimpy as issue an apology. The deputy turned himself in and became an inmate (or "political prisoner", according to Joe...I am not making this up). In an effort to waste all sorts of taxpayer money, put the public at risk, and just generally be an asshole, Joe has filed a federal lawsuit, saying that there is a widespread conspiracy. In addition to this, 19 deputies called in sick that were scheduled to work courthouse security. Oh, and there have been several bomb threats.

I like it when employers stand up for their employees, but the deputy was wrong to act the way he did and should face some consequences. This isn't a simple difference of opinion, he violated the attorney/client privilege. I also don't have that much sympathy for Joe, as this isn't the first time he has done something bad.

(h/t to Radley Balko)


Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Times might be tough, but I know I have a lot to be thankful for. I hope you do too.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Kegging Part 2

Friday, November 20, 2009

The caulk dried fine. So it was time to sanitize and fill the keg! Oh boy...

Filling the keg with my lovely Belgian Cherry Dubbel (a Belgian Dubbel brewed with real Traverse City cherry juice):
Yummy. Smelled like tart cherries as I filled the keg. These kegs fill and cap so easily:
And look! The keg fits!And here it is, all hooked up:
With the gas hooked up, I am carbonating the beer right now. Sopor taught me the brewers way to cheat a bit to be able to drink faster. What I am after is a beer with a certain level of carbonation; in this case, 2-3 "volumes" of CO2 for this Belgian-style ale seems to be appropriate (2-3 volumes = not very fizzy, but some fizz for sure), which, in a fridge set with my digital temperature gauge at 45 degrees, is about 15 pounds per square inch.

Drinking comes soon....


Kegging, Part 1

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I have decided to make the jump from bottling my beers, which is a massive pain in the ass, to kegging my beer. Every book I have read about brewing and kegging has its author crying why, oh why, they didn't keg sooner. I had the same reaction. Where the Hell was I on that one?? For example:

Bottling requires cleaning and sanitizing the following: 45-50 bottles, 45-50 caps, a bucket, a racking cane and related equipment, a small tap system for the bucket, a line for the beer, and a bottle filler. Then, you fill and cap every single bottle, and wait at least 2 weeks, usually more, for the beer to condition in the bottle.

Kegging requires cleaning and sanitizing: a keg, 9 small, easily-removable keg parts, and racking equipment (3 tubes, essentially). Get the beer into the keg. Chill the keg. Force some carbonation into it. Drink.

So I have the keg and keg parts now, and they are cleaned. But what I lacked was a suitable kegerator. And so we arrive at the subject for today's post: Smitty's 30-minute Field Expedient Kegerator, or, How Smitty converted an ancient (and free) dorm fridge into a kegerator.

First, the fridge:
I understand it is inadvisable to keep the CO2 tank in the fridge with the keg. This means I have to run a line from my CO2 tank outside the fridge to the keg in the fridge. Enter an 11/16" borer bit and 2 rubber electrical grommets.
I first measured exact center for both the top of the fridge and the inside top of the fridge, then marked a space 2" toward the back of the fridge from each of those spots. Then I drilled with the borer up through the plastic interior, then down through the sheet metal top. Voila'! A hole! (The dark half-moon you see is my fingertip, showing the hole goes all the way through)
I slid the 2 grommets over the end of the CO2 line that connects to the gas tank (NOT the keg...that's a huge piece that stays INSIDE the fridge!!); 1 for the hole on the inside of the fridge, one on the outside. Wiggle wiggle, shove shove, and the grommets and tube are in place! Here's the outside:
And the inside:
And that's it. I wait for the caulk to cure this evening, and tomorrow, I will keg and chill the beer, force-carbonate, and I figure by Friday, I am drinking my Belgian Cherry Dubbel!

More on the kegging process and forced-carbonation process tomorrow.


Shit My Dad Says...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Well, not exactly. My dad can be pretty funny, but Justin has been getting a lot of buzz and possibly a TV deal, though it would have to be cleaned up quite a bit. Here are some of the funnier posts:

"I don't need more friends. You got friends and all they do is ask you to help them move. Fuck that. I'm old. I'm through moving shit."

"You worry too much. Eat some bacon... What? No, I got no idea if it'll make you feel better, I just made too much bacon."

I think the baby shit....Well, I'm smelling shit right now, so if it ain't the baby, one of you has a big fucking problem."

"I wanted to see Detroit win. I've been there. It's like God took a shit on a parking lot. They deserve some good news."


Happy Veterans' Day!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I post this just becuase it is cool.

Camaro via CH-47:

Source: Youtube via autoblog.


Juvenile Justice

Monday, November 09, 2009

Smitty gave me a heads up that The Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments in Graham v. Florida (08-7412) and Sullivan v. Florida (08-7621). These cases dealt with the Constitutionality of imposing a life sentence without the possibility of parole on a juvenile. I told Smitty that it was interesting that issue has never come up, but he suggested that those kind of sentences were probably not used on juveniles until relatively recently.

Scotus Blog has an excellent analysis or the arguments and discussions. If you are interested in the briefs and petitions filed up until now, I would suggest checking out scotuswiki. Last, but not least, NPR has a good article on the background of the two petitioners, Terrance Graham and Joe Sullivan.

The NPR article is a good place to start. Not surprising, Florida has 70% of the juvenile offenders locked up for life for crimes other than murder. Graham was convicted of armed robbery and Sullivan for raping an elderly woman. Neither person, in my mind, garners a whole lot of sympathy, but the question then becomes is it reasonable to lock them up and throw away the key?

Scotus Blog details some of the arguments made. For the State of Florida:

The state of Florida’s lawyer, Solicitor General Scott D. Makar from Tallahassee opened his argument by contending that a categorical bar on life-without-parole for minors would run counter to trends in treating juveniles over past couple of decades, frustrating states in their attempts to deal with rising juvenile crime while still remaining sensitive to the needs of youthful offenders.

Interesting, as most studies show that juvenile crime is the lowest it has been in years. Additionally, I don't believe that life sentences are a deterrent to a juvenile that is considering a criminal act. The justices seemed to vary in opinion from some supporting developing a bright line rule that would prohibit these sentences below a certain age. The Chief Justice seemed to prefer:

...to recruit a majority of the Supreme Court in favor of giving juveniles more chance to use their age to challenge life-without-parole prison terms, as an alternative to a flat constitutional bar against ever imposing that sentence.

There was this exchange with Sotomayor:

After Makar had said that Florida acknowledged that youthful age “does matter,” Justice Sotomayor asked for help in drawing the line where life-without-parole would be permissible. Would it be unconstituional if the youth were only 10? she asked. If that is too early, she said, why would 14 or 15 not be too early? Makar would only concede that “I think it [age] does matter.” Sotomayor was not satisfied, next asking about a no-release sentence for a five-year-old.

A five year old? I am sure that Sotomayor well knows that a 5 year old lacks the ability to form an intent to commit a crime. This seems like she wanted to be melodramatic. Lighten up Sonia.

I think the Founding Fathers did a good job in phrasing the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. They allowed for changes in society, as opposed to defining what was specifically cruel and unusual. In the late 18th century, all felonies were punished by death and children could receive pretty harsh punishments. Even as late at the early 20th century, punishments for juveniles were severe and due process was almost non-existent. Gradually, procedural safeguards were set up and, most recently, the Supreme Court said the death penalty could not be applied to juveniles.

I am leaning towards a ban on life sentences without parole for juveniles. Courts already have discretion in charging people under the age of 18 as adults. Most of the time, going through the juvenile system offers more flexibility in terms of treatments and punishments. While there are some youths that are likely incorrigible, this is hard to predict and there are certainly crimes that call for a life sentence. The problem is that I see too much potential for abuse, especially in a high profile case. What do the ATK readers think?


Put Down the Pitchfork, Joe

Yesterday on Fox News Sunday Morning, Senator Joe Lieberman (Idiot-CT) stated that so-called Islamic extremists should be tossed out of the military. Obviously, an Al Qaeda sympathizer should be kicked to the curb, but do we really want someone like Joe Lieberman deciding what brand of Islam qualifies as “extreme”?

Really, in the U.S. Army, this is not a matter of constitutional freedom of speech. If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have zero tolerance. He should have been gone.
I don’t hear Lieberman calling for the ouster of Christian and Jewish extremists from the military, even though it surely contains some of those. The 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta was perpetrated by a Christian extremist, but I don’t hear a call to expel that religious sect entirely.

I am betting this guy was crazy first and a Muslim second. Let’s put down the pitchfork Joe and wait for the adults to finish their investigation.

Source: Firedoglake


God Bless Texas

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A wise man once screamed something at the top of his lungs that Texas primarily produces two completely unrelated products that rhyme.

One of those two products that the gentleman alluded to was not beer, though strangely, that also rhymes with the other two primary Texan products. And after trying this week's beer that ATK-occasional Joel sent me, I think "beers" should definitely be added to the wise gentleman's list of Texan products/exports.

This week, we taste Real Ale Brewing Company's (Blanco, TX) Coffee Porter, a robust porter brewed with coffee.

Coffee Porter pours a medium brown, tending even a little towards red like some coffees I am familiar with and enjoy. The pour gave a thin parchment-colored head with tons of tight, effervescent bubbles. The head dissipated rather quickly (I am betting from the coffee's acidity), leaving a slight pool of bubbles that swam on top.

Even 6 inches away from my nose, there is no mistaking the coffee in this beer. I guess nobody ever accused anyone in Texas of being subtle or small...so I would go as far as saying (and it pains a Yankee to say it) that the coffee aroma isn't just big, it's (sigh) Texas big. Roasted malts are trying really hard to compete with the earthy, smoky, slightly vegetal aroma of the organic coffee that powers this pint. Chocolate and a scant whisper of vanilla are begging for rescue under the coffee avalanche.

Like my favorite A.M. pick-me-ups, Coffee Porter is bitter. Coffee bitter. The coffee itself is from Katz coffee in Houston, TX. Of that coffee, the Katz Coffee Company says:

This dark roasted Mexico Organic Fair Trade coffee is exactly what Real Ale uses in their seasonal Coffee Porter beer. This coffee tantalizes the taste buds with a slight smokiness. The full body and good acidity allow you to enjoy the lingering soft caramelized sugar aftertaste. The least robust of our Dark Profiles, this is a cup of coffee you can drink all day.
I imagine to get the soft caramelized sugar, you need to drink it coffee-hot. But the other flavors of this roast are there in droves: acidic, a hint of smoke, and a full-bodied coffee bitterness that I crave for my personal morning cuppa Joe.

There is also a lingering bitterness to this porter from roasted barley, which also gives the beer a sight grainy aspect. Though the bitter flavors are slightly out of balance with the sweet and roasted malty flavors normally found in a "robust porter," there is still a friendly ghost of chocolate throughout and a maltiness that begs for attention (were the not subject to a severe beat-down by the coffee!) The aftertaste calms down a bit and reminds you that indeed, this is a beer.

The body is slightly watery-thin with a lot of carbonation. It's not so much a palate-cleanser as it is a reassurance that I grabbed a beer and not an iced frappacappumochacino.

Instead of a porter with some coffee, this is like a gourmet iced coffee with some fizz and alcohol, and I would understand that some people would consider this beer markedly out of balance towards the coffee and bitter. Now, as a coffee drinker addict, I really dig the big acidity and bitterness of this beer, and the bitterness isn't the over-hopped Tripple IPA bitterness either; it's that dark-roasted-everything bitter you get in coffee and big stouts that don't rely on tons of hops. That kind of bitter isn't as invasive as some brewer's Extreme Beers. If you're adventuresome, or a coffee drinker, here's your beer. It's an homage to the beverage that makes mornings possible. But if you're not a coffee connoisseur, maybe try Atwater Block Brewing Company's (Detroit, MI) Vanilla Java Porter, an homage to porter with just a hint of coffee to make it interesting.


Don't Let the Door Hit You...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

As a follow up to this post on the Judge who wouldn't marry interracial couples, there is good news. With overwhelming bipartisan support, Justice of the Peace, Keith Bardwell, has resigned. This saves the state having to kick his ass out. He still faces a civil rights suit from the couple he refused to marry. Here's hoping they win.


What Last Night Means

There are some good discussions in the last post on the election results and different theories as to what it means and why it happened. Despite my contrariness, I thought everyone made decent arguments and I can buy the idea that certain people probably did vote those ways. Over at Volokh, Orin Kerr summarizes it like this:

I think there are four obvious lessons to draw from tonight’s election returns:

1. For Conservative Republicans: The America people reject Barack Obama and obviously want true conservative leadership. The Governorships of two states have switched to the “R” category, showing a grassroots conservative movement that is alive and well.

2. For Moderate Republicans: The American people obviously want old-fashioned economic conservatives who are moderate on social issues. McDonnell in Virginia and Christie in New Jersey won by downplaying social issues; Hoffman in New York-23 lost because he was too extreme.

3. For Moderate Democrats: The party out of power usually does well in off-year elections like this, and this year was no exception. But obviously there is no sign of any substantial shift in public opinion from the election of 2008.

4. For Liberal Democrats: NY-23 was the race to watch this year, given that right-wing extremists like Palin and Beck threw all their support behind Hoffman. But the district voters rejected the right-wing candidate, sending a Democrat to Congress for the first time in one hundred years. Obviously this shows that the American people reject right-wing extremism.


I think a reasonable person could argue any one of those positions and I also think that a reasonable person could dispute them.


Last Night's Recap

I won't write a recap of last night's elections results, because Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com always does a better job.

He agrees with the assessment of Mr. Furious that "all politics are local."

Of course the MSM will enter into horserace mode and have to interpret the results for all us simpletons, while the right wing intelligentsia will continue full force in their 48 hour circle-jerk.

Special thanks to Sarah Palin and Fred Thompson for blowing it for the Republicans in NY-23.


Public Service Announcement

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

For the Michigan segment of Around the Keg reader- and contributorship, don't forget to vote today. Detroit wants a new mayor, Lansing might want a new mayor, and school boards across the state are holding election. We also have a key State Senate race that could decide not only the future majority party for the state senate, but also the future of the Congressional seat in that area.

Our New York readership has a key election in the 23rd as well.

As for the rest of you...I dunno. Sorry.



Tommyknocker, Tommyknocker...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My first experience with Tommyknockers was Stephen King'snovel of the same name. Not a fan, really.

My second experience with Tommyknockers came 21 years later. This one come in a brown bottle from Idaho Springs, CO. The back of the bottle tells me that Tommyknockers are "mischievous elves who slipped into mining camps with the Cornish miners in the 1800s." This website spells out the legend.

I'll take the gnome legend; gnomes and beer just seem to fit together. And for this beer selection, the beer gnomes of Tommyknocker Brewery have created Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale, brewed with pure maple syrup. Given that my own Michigan Maple Syrup Porter was a ridiculously-popular brew, I'll try anything with an ingredient native to my own home state.

Tommyknocker's Imperial Nut Brown poured a deep dark brown, like the deep brown of a Ghirardi dark chocolate. Lovely caramel brown highlights near the top gave way to a thin cappuccino-foam head. As the head dissipated, it left a thin swirl that remained throughout the beer. I always love how a beer looks; nothing makes me want to dive into a pint more than a beer that just looks enticing. Tommyknocker's beer gnomes, like little American leprechauns, really know how to lure me into their trap.

Big huge aromas played games with my nose, drawing me further into their little game. Chocolate blended with caramel, all on top of a nice cup of mild coffee. A gently roasted nut aroma gave the beer a chocolate mocha feel. Malty sweetness gave way to a slight alcohol burn, which wasn't enough to spoil the rest of the brew. And right at the end, like a reminder, was a slight hint of sugary maple syrup.

With the taste, I fell completely under the spell of the Tommyknockers; whether a trick or a trap, it no longer mattered. Maple syrup met chocolate and bready malt and made enough room for coffee to join in. All of the basic nut brown flavors were there to enjoy, including plums and a malty sweetness. The addition of the maple syrup added a sugary touch, and made the beer "imperial" in nature, complete with dangerous boosts to the normal style's flavors and a solventy alcohol burn. Big flavors to compete with the aromas.

The beer had a much lighter body than I expected from an Imperial brown. It was a little thin and watery, but not unsatisfying. The medium-high carbonation lifted the intense amount of sugars off the tongue to keep Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown from being cloyingly sweet.

This is a big beer for malt lovers. Sugary sweet, malty sweet, Tommyknocker gave me a delicious, challenging take on a basic Brit classic. As "Imperial"-style ales go, this is not the typical over-hopped, over-boozed, over-sugared "extreme beer" knock off. A gentle hand created this Imperial ale and allowed me to enjoy the robust flavors without having to fight through it or wear it as a badge of honor.

But at 9% abv, the Tommyknocker mischief certainly sneaks up on you!


Third Party Rising?

ATK regulars have debated the impact of the ultra conservative, "TEA Party" movement in several posts. In his post on October 12th, ATK contributor Steve suggested that the teabaggers might branch off into their own party. I discounted this suggestion at the time, because I surmised that the teabaggers don't need to do so when they really have complete control over the existing Republican Party. I thought that it was more likely that moderate Republicans would need their own party.

Judging by what is going on in one New York State Congressional race, Steve may have been right.

From what I have read, New York’s district #23 is usually a shoe-in for Republicans, but not so this year. It seems that New York Republicans aren’t conservative enough for the national party base, so Republicans like Fred Thomspon, Dick Armey and Sarah Palin have endorsed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.

Up until today it looked like the foolish teabaggers, and the outsiders like Thompson, might be about to throw a solid Republican seat to the Democrats. Today, a Daily KOS poll (Yes, Kos.) showed that the race is a dead heat between Democrat Bill Owens at 33% and Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman at 32%. The Republican, Dede Scozzafava is way behind at 21%. Other polls by conservatives have shown similar numbers.

As a Democrat I see this situation as a win, no matter what the outcome on Tuesday. If the Democrat pulls it out, that is fine with me. Add one more to the Democratic majority in Congress. If the teabaggers claim victory and strengthen a third-party base, I am OK with that too.

If the Conservative Party becomes a more permanent, growing force in politics, I see the Republican Party even more fractured that it is. The ability of Republicans to deliver statewide or national elections will be endangered, perhaps setting up a long era of Democratic governance not seen since the beginning of the New Deal era.

What’s your take?


With Friends Like These…

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lieberman to vote against the public option and support a filibuster.

Would you ass-hats in Connecticut get rid of this scumbag?

Read at Politico and then rant.

UPDATE: If you are a consitutent of Jerk-off Joe, you can reach him here.

UPDATE 2: Joe is a "complete fucking asshole."


Reid Has Spinal Transplant

Monday, October 26, 2009

Today Senator Harry Reid (D-Wet Noodle) announced that he has come to his senses and will insert a so-called “public option” into the Senate health care bill when it comes to the floor.

It will contain the opt-out language, which will allow states to opt-out before 2014. I assume they can opt back in. It isn’t perfect, but my guess is, there will be nearly as many states that opt-out as those who refused stimulus funds.

Read at the Washington Post and Discuss.


Tony the Tiger Never Knew What Hit Him

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Great American Beer Fest is so much more than a chance to try beers you've never had before; what's the point of a ridiculously-huge beer fest if you just drink what you know? That's like going to Per Se in New York and asking for a burger. No, the GABF also hosts a competition that separates the wheat from the chaff.

One of this year's winners is Michigan-born Cereal Killer. From Arcadia Brewing Company in Battle Creek, Michigan (home of Kellogg's), this huge barleywine promises to go homocidal on your tastebuds.
I'll avoid the temptation of saying that Cereal Killer pours a slight blood-red color, and instead go with this: Cereal Killer pours a hazy red cherry color (harbinger of things to come, perhaps) that deepens to a cloudy brown from the bottom of the glass towards the top. The thin egg-shell head dissipates quickly, yielding effervescent bubbles that form on the surface. This is a beautiful beer.

Sorry, Tony, but Frosted Flakes aren't so Grrrrrrrreat when it comes to the Killer. Sure this beer shares some of Cereal City's trademark roasted grain aroma (it just seems to float in the air in Battle Creek), but beats it and buries it under layers of juicy caramel, unsweetened cocoa powder, a hint of citrus and a heavy, sticky malt. If my breakfast cereal smelled like this, I'd have had trouble making it through school.

Cereal Killer hones-in on the tongue as much as it did the nose. Immediately, the tongue is battered about by a blend of heavy, rich caramel and syrupy-sticky malt. Mixed in to the malty syrup was roasted nuts, dried cherries and even some honey. Funny that something that reminds me of a happy, friendly ice cream sundae would be called cereal killer! At the end, a bit of bitterness peeked out of the cloyingly-sweet body of the beer, not so much from hops but more of a citrusy bitterness. The beer finished with a beautiful milk chocolate note that along with the hint of bitter was like oranges dipped in a fountain of cacao.

Cereal Killer finishes dry, and the moderately-high carbonation cleanses the tongue between sips. Yes, sips. This is no quaffing beer. This is a beer like a thick port or sherry wine; enjoy it among several people after dinner lest the whole bottle tire out your mouth. It is drinkable and enjoyable for a barleywine. I had to resist writing this up using murder euphemisms, because that is apart from the spirit of this beer. Cereal Killer, despite its name, is a sweet after dinner treat. Maybe the hipsters at Arcadia were going for the ironic thing? Perhaps, but whatever their goal in naming the beer, they certainly made a great barleywine, worthy of its recognition on a national stage.

Or perhaps the judges simply feared for their tongues.


Something Light for the Weekend--The Ballad of GI Joe

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The crew at Funny or Die convinced some fairly decent actors to make this spoof of Gi Joe.


The Option That Isn't Discussed

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I don't have a lot of time, but I wanted to throw out this piece by Glenn Greenwald on Afghanistan. I have heard talks of escalation and keeping the same strength, but the one thing that doesn't get much press is a withdrawal.

Every option is on the proverbial table except one: not fighting the war. And there's a widening gap between (a) public opinion (which sees Afghanistan as "turning into another Vietnam" and which opposes more troops, with 49% favoring a full or partial withdrawal) and (b) the virtual unanimity of establishment punditry which, as always, is cheerleading for the war. The only difference is that, with a Democratic President, there seems to be more Democratic and progressive support for this war (though there was, of course, plenty of that for Iraq, too).

As the article points out, there is a compelling reason to pull out, this statement from the Defense Science Board Task Force on what is making terrorism worse and exacerbating the problem:

American direct intervention in the Muslim world" -- through our "one sided support in favor of Israel"; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, "the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan

Give me a compelling reason to stay. I can see a few, but none that are worth the problems we are causing by staying.


Victory for Knife Rights Advocates

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

While the area of firearms rights is seeing some improvement, knives have always gotten the short shift. Most legislatures aren't that interested in addressing problems and inconsistencies and there isn't much case law. What we are left with is a myriad of confusing and sometimes contradictory laws and regulations, including local statutes. Additionally, there aren't very many knife rights groups and they have nowhere near the funds of the NRA, though they have gotten involved in this case.

Volokh reported that the Senate has proposed an amendment to the Federal Switchblade Act that will clean up some of the language so that a proposed change by officials/assbag busybodies at Customs that would have brought a who;e bunch of other knives under that law. This is what the new law says. A switchblade is NOT:

a knife that contains a spring, detent, or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade and that requires exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist, or arm to overcome the bias toward closure to assist in opening the knife.

I don't really see how banning switchblades keeps us safe, but I am glad this is coming from the Senate and Obama is expected to sign it. I am hoping that this will clean up some Michigan laws, as I frequently carry this knife:

If you look at the top of the blade near the handle, you will see a "hook". That is called the "wave" and assists in opening the blade. There are many other kinds of knives with similar features, such as springs that assist in opening the blade when pressure is applied. There have been instances of municipalities charging people carrying them with violating switchblade laws, so hopefully this will clear things up.


"Global Generation" Republicans

Monday, October 19, 2009

The intertubes have been filled since last November with various long-winded bloviations and philosophical wankery about what conservatives, Republicans and conservative Republicans "still stand for/really are." A lot has been a race to go farther and farther right despite a "majority voter" being pretty middle of the road.

I ran across this little gem from one of Michigan's own Congresspersons, The Honorable Thaddeus McCotter (R - MI 11). It is an article in the oft-poked-fun-of Big Government e-zine from conservative columnist Andrew Breitbart. It is a discussion about how a new generation of Republicans - The Global Generation - must rise up to meet our new global and national challenges; nay, only The Global Generation Republicans will be able to meet what faces us.

Really, it's a cheer-leading rah-rah post full of $50 words disguised as deep thoughts. I'm all for leadership and finding your path, but this is full of hyperbole and villification of Teh Left as a straw-man enemy. The truth is teh left isn't the enemy at all; they're Americans just like THE GLOBAL GENERATION REPUBLICANS ™.

To set the tone, Rep. McCotter puts it right out there:

They were “Wide Awakes” – scores of torchbearers marching through sleepy hamlets to herald the emancipation of a people from the bonds of slavery into God-given liberty. These despised and decried champions of human freedom and defenders of American Union proudly called themselves “Republicans.”
See? Just like today's republicans who are despised and decried but champions of FREEDOM nonetheless! Torture?? We're champions of freedom, bitches.

One of my favorite gems is this:
Indeed, through history’s lens Global Generation Republicans glean the transformational challenges confronting our nation.
In their time, the Greatest Generation faced and transcended four transformational challenges:
1. The social, economic and political upheavals of industrialization;
2. A world war against evil enemies;
3. The Soviet Union’s strategic threat and rival model of governance; and
4. The moral struggle of the civil rights movement.

In our time, our Global Generation faces and must transcend four transformational challenges:
1. The social, economic and political upheavals of globalization;
2. A world war against evil enemies;
3. Communist China’s strategic threat and rival model of governance; and
4. Moral relativism’s erosion of our self-evident truths.

Despite the parallels, one significant difference exists: The Greatest Generation faced their challenges consecutively; our Global Generation faces our challenges simultaneously.
Ah yes! A history lesson with a comparative analysis of our current world! What a great intellectual exercise. Also, China! Beware!

There are a lot of holes in that particular comparative analysis that we can all hash-out in the comments, but I would argue that industrialization and globalization are two completely different paradigms, the latter of which requires unprecedented cooperation and a stream of communication that cannot be managed. In fact, I would argue that globalization is the best paradigm yet for the spread of true, honest democracy. And it requires a breakdown of industrialization.

The "world war against evil enemies" is lazy. The similarities between WWII and our current GWOT are akin to the similarities between Bud Light and Stone Russian Imperial Stout.

Now, the USSR/China comparison is clever enough, as their governments are indeed rival. But what I think Thadd misses is that China is becoming increasingly 1) global; and 2) capitalist. China's threat to the U.S. is in now war a Cold War nuclear threat of destruction. Their threat to us is forcing us to pay-off our debt, and crushing our ability to manufacture and export. Their threat to us is not war. It's global, and economic. And you treat those differently! At least, I hope one would...

Nice inclusion of the moral struggle behind civil rights. Someone remind me...a whole bunch of people in my parents' generation didn't have to struggle with the concept of civil rights. Seemed obvious to them. But I would like to know more about "Moral relativism’s erosion of our self-evident truths." Which self-evident truths? That we are created equal? I don't recall any single person or belief between the two major U.S. parties that argues a relativist position to that "truth." What I do see is a series of actions that supports the opposite: moral absolutism eroding self-evident truths.

What really pisses me off is that this is on one hand a lazy "intellectual" call to arms, and on the other hand an attack on the Left:
In this noble, necessary service, Global Generation Republicans are guided by our party’s five enduring principles:
1. Our liberty is from God not the government;
2. Our sovereignty is in our souls not the soil;
3. Our security is from strength not surrender;
4. Our prosperity is from the private sector not the public sector; and
5. Our truths are self-evident not relative.

Understanding “politics is the art of the possible,” we embrace our members’ variety of opinions regarding the application of these principles to contemporary challenges; and we never forget that the Left disdains our five enduring principles.
What?? Look, the 5 Principles are fine, and to a degree, I agree with them (the degree being inversely proportional to the amount of hyperbole or buzz-word-addiction therein; Security being from strength not surrender gets less support because it is intellectually lazy and pretty fucking obvious, but is also an equally lazy implied attack on the current administration's foreign policy tac). But that "never forget the Left disdains our five enduring principles" is unnecessary and total bullshit.

Oh wait, I think I just disdained them.

Look, I am all for speaking out against the majority party. That is indeed one of the things that makes us great. Bitch all you want. God knows, Teh Left did it plenty during the Bush Administration, and with as much vitriol. What I disagree with is the villification of a party for "disdaining" your principles, which shift. The opposite party does something, to which you hold up to an ever-changing kaleidoscope and say "they are our enemy because they violated Principle 3(a)." And either party makes me nuts when they declare the other party an enemy of America. They aren't. They are doing what they think is best. But there are people who truly believe, either way, that the other party actually wishes to destroy America. Not only does that chill debate, but it refuses to recognize opposing viewpoints as valid and can incite people to violence. You are threatening someone's beliefs.

Thadd's piece is no rousing call-to-arms. It's just another lazy philosophical meandering with appropriate rails against the opposing party sprinkled throughout. Still waiting for that honest piece to come out...


The Ongoing Saga of Balloon Boy (or When Will Their 15 Minutes of Fame End?)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Balloon Boy just won't go away. I mentioned that I need more information before I would assign jackass status. I got that information and I would like to withdraw any neutral comment I made about this family and join the ranks of those who would have administered a schoolyard pummeling. I am seldom wrong, but I can't recall a recent event where I called it as badly as this one.

Exhibit A:

Here is a video the family made after being on Wife Swap. It is easily as bad as the ones I posted from William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

Exhibit B:

They were on Wife Swap. I don't really mind reality shows, but this one is so utterly bad that I can't understand why anyone would go on it.

Exhibit C:

The authorities in Colorado are pressing charges, as they believe the whole thing was contrived. State law only allows for a relatively minor punishment, so they are looking into the possibility of federal charges. Ouch, the feds don't screw around.

Exhibit D:

Dad's hair. I know he is an inventor and I am pretty sure he build a time machine and went back to 1991 to find this style:


Words escape me--A lawyer that other lawyers would hate

Friday, October 16, 2009

Like many communities across the US, the city of Oak Brook, Illinois is struggling with library funding issues. One of the key loudmouths in that debate has been Constantine "Connie" Xinos. Before I discuss his behavior, I would like to point out that I am very biased on the issue of public libraries. They are a great public service and I will consistently vote to keep them well funded. Part of that is based on the fact that I use the library a great deal. I read a lot and probably go through 75-100 books in a year. My wife is even worse and can easily double that output. Our daughter also likes to read a fair amount. If we had to buy every book we read, I doubt we could afford it. I usually just buy books I can't get at the library or the ones from authors I really like and want to support.

"Connie," like other people in his community, was concerned about the amount be spent on the library. Unlike a normal person, he was an absolute prick about making his point.

"I don't care that you guys miss the librarian, and she was nice, and she helped you find books," Xinos told them.

Nice. And this gem directed at a kid that was upset:

"I wanted that kid to lose sleep that night," a grinning Xinos says Wednesday, as he invites me for a nearly two-hour interview in his Mercedes-Benz in the gated Oak Brook community where he lives. "This is the real world and the lesson, you folks who brought your kids here, is if you want something, pay for it."

Oh, and he doesn't just hate the library. This comment in regards to a proposed housing complex for Seniors:

"I don't want to live next to poor people. I don't want poor people in my town."

At least he never had any kids:

Xinos, who says he never had children in part because he wasn't sure he'd be able to support them, sprinkles the F-word throughout his conversations. He dismisses a recent library event involving dogs with a blunt three-word rant in which he bookends swear words around the word "that."


There's a App. Rep. for that...


Activist Judge

Look! The Right has activist judges too!

Interracial couple denied marriage license in La.

This fits with the general assbaggery/jackassery thread we've been running today. This I think slips firmly into douchebaggery.

It is not this guy's job to decide who should get married. This is racism through and through. And like all good racists, the phrase he went to right away is the Some Of My Best Friends Are Black Defense:

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."
Well maybe I should let-off of this guy a bit. I do admire the fact that he lets the coloreds African Americans use his bathroom.

My favorite is his very scientific sociological study regarding perceptions in various communities about children of opposite or mixed races:
Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.

"There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," Bardwell said. "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."
Oh, I get it. He is trying to do this child a favor by protecting it from ridicule at the hands and cruel adults who will look down on a baby who identifies with more than one racial background.

Fine this douchebag. Take away his law license. He is unfit to serve any justice on any community.


Michigan Budget Crisis

I just saw Granholm on the news this morning talking about the state budget and how K-12 school may be hit with more than $300 in cuts, as opposed to what was originally thought, which was around half that much. Senate leader Mike Bishop has said that the Republicans are going to hold firm to their promise:

Bishop held firm that Senate Republicans won't agree to new taxes or fees to restore the scholarships, or any other items in the budget.

"If she chooses to veto anything we've sent her that was part of our bipartisan agreement, it will create a hole in the budget," Bishop said. "And we don't have an expectation of refunding those holes."

I am furious. I understand that taxes are high. I understand that there are some programs that the state spends money on that are a waste, but come on! We have made all sorts of cuts to education, corrections, transportation, and law enforcement. There is nothing else that can be cut. We need to raise revenue. Schools have already seen some serious cuts to crucial programs. Coounseling services have been cut way back or outright eliminated. Special ed. programs have lost key employees. Class sizes have gone way up. Are the Republicans that out of touch or are they as morally bankrupt as their opponents say?

I am done with Michigan Republicans. Anyone that continues to insist that education needs to be cut and is unwilling to raise any revenue isn't going to get my vote. I don't care if they are running against Karl Marx reincarnated, they aren't getting my support.


Jackassery part deux: drunkest beer run

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Worst Shopping Run Ever - Watch more Funny Videos

Check out the date/time stamp. It was 10 in the morning.


This Week in Jackasserey

6 year old Colorado boy found alive after setting balloon adrift.

So you chase tornadoes for a living, you named your kid "Falcon," and you built
a hot air balloon in your garage.

....uh hello, what the fuck did you think was going to happen?!!!

I really hope these idiots get handed the bill for the public resources that got burned up on this wild goose chase.


Dishonest Discourse

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When a presentation is entitled "Transferring GITMO Detainees to Michigan: State Assisted Suicide" you get an idea right away where the conversation is going to head. Spoiler Alert: it's heads to Crazytown as quick as a high-speed train, and crashes just as spectacularly.

It irritates me when there are people who think so little of their audience that they disrespect the importance of the debate about Guantanamo Bay prisoners. This debate includes our own constitutional rights, our international responsibility and so on; you all know the drill.

Some time ago, Governor Granholm proposed a controversial way to bring some money into Michigan and save a little town called Standish from having the prison that supplies the bulk of jobs in that community close down (I hate that prison closure is a job issue, in that we find ways to keep prisons open just to sustain jobs, but that's a post for another day): move the Gitmo prisoners here! Fool-proof, right? It's cold as fuck here, everybody in Michigan owns guns, etc.

Obviously, this brings serious debate, including having to declare an actual, definable status for these prisoners once they enter U.S. soil and the declaration's implications on extradition treaties, the means by which many were incarcerated and so on.

But last Tuesday, did we have that important and heady debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee here in the mitten state?


We get a retired Army Lt. Colonel (Lt. Colonel Cucullu, which at first glance reminded me of Cthulhu) and a former Defense Department analyst named Peter Leitner, who was the Treasurer of the National Republican Trust PAC, which was responsible for that well-balanced ad in 2008 that included a shot of Obama's face superimposed over Muhammed Atta's driver's license. Already, you see the quality of debate we're about to engage in when you've got a guy willing to fund an ad that relies on fear and dishonesty. Turns out, by the way, this Trust PAC is chock-full of birthers and has helped fund that movement.

You can find the presentation here. It is full of real gems, but the best shit comes on page 14 of 15.

In a slide entitled "What's likely here" we learn that if we house Gitmo detainees here in Michigan, we will get:

  • Terrorists striking simultaneously at multiple schools, or:
  • a Beslan-type attack with fewer terrorists but better bombs
  • Middle schools without a police presence are preferred, [because] the girls are big enough to rape; the students are not big enough to fight back; staffed largely by females
  • schools with external surveillance cameras are preferred so terrorists can observe LE [law enforcement] response
I don't quite know what the last point has to do with the consequences behind our actions, but it is a great example of the gloriously disjointed presentation.

Look, when that is your bottom line, and when you show pictures of a terrorist bombing at a school that has nothing to do with Al Queda as proof of what Al Queda will do here, then you don't actually have a point in the argument. You're just making noise.

When you call Beslan a "dress rehearsal" for what will come in America, despite no factual link between angry Chechens and detainees in Guantanamo Bay, you are not interested in engaging in debate. You just want to freak people out because you don't really get the issue either. I'd love to do a point-by-point debunking of this power point presentation, but there's no point. It's just sensationalism and an attempt at the delay of a wildly necessary conversation. Why not here? Why not define detainees' status? What can we really expect?

Instead, we get more fear-mongering and avoidance.

I added a link to the actual presentation above. Go take a look.


Is the Public Option in the Lead?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Committees For Public Option: 4
Committee Opposed: 1

The last of five House and Senate committees has passed a health reform proposal. The Senate Finance committee was the only committee which did not include a public option.

Is the public option - in theory - in the lead?


The Public Option

I recently started reading Robert Reich's blog. Reich tends to promote populist and progressive policies when politicians won't. His column from yesterday seems to have created a Democratic talking point that I have heard repeated in the last 24 hours.

Yesterday he took on the insurance industry's newest "study" which claimed one of the health insurance reform bills (without a public option) would raise costs. His column voiced further evidence of the need for a public option.

The Audacity of Greed: How Private Health Insurers Just Blew Their Cover

“The only reason these costs can be passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums is because there's not enough competition among private insurers to force them to absorb the costs by becoming more efficient. Get it? Health insurers have just made the best argument yet about why a public insurance option is necessary.”
Read and Discuss.



Monday, October 12, 2009

Not really a surprise, but the Tea partiers are turning their sights on the GOP. An example:

In Florida, where the national party has signaled its preference for centrist Gov. Charlie Crist in the GOP Senate primary, tea party activists are lining up behind former state House Speaker Marco Rubio in reaction to Crist’s public backing for President Barack Obama’s stimulus package.


Tea party activists are also lining up behind challengers to GOP establishment-backed Senate candidates in Colorado and Connecticut. In California, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina — like Crist, another National Republican Senatorial Committee-favored Senate contender — is the target of tea party animus in her primary against conservative state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.

I still see the TP movement as being mostly without direction and mixture of well-intentioned folk and obnoxious teabaggers, spouting off all sorts of nonsense. Time will tell if this turns into a lasting political movement. If it does last, then what will it look like?

There are several options. One is that they will break off and form their own party. This would seem to be a disaster for both them and the GOP. They would attract the more conservative elements and some libertarians. The GOP would lose them and both would be relegated to third party status and influence. The other option would be that the TP'ers would force the GOP to adopt some or most of their positions. While they wouldn't lose the conservatives, they would have a difficult time attracting moderates and moderate Democrats.

Among TP enthusiasts, I hear praise and admiration for one of the few Republicans that they still support, Sarah Palin. As unfairly as I thought the media treated her, I still don't think she is a good choice for leadership. She is so polarizing and would be unable to generate any support among non-conservatives. Democrats worried about Obama's chances in 2012 should rest easy is she is on the ticket.

I understand that politics is cyclical and that both parties have seen good times and lean times. I also think it is a bit premature for Democrats to say the GOP is finished. Both parties enjoy die-hard loyalists, but the key to any election is appealing to the huge number of voters in the middle. At this point, I have a hard time seeing the TP'ers being able to do this, and I also have my doubts that a TPlite version of the GOP will be able to do this either.


Peace out Suckers!

Friday, October 09, 2009

I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be away for a while. I was recently contacted by a woman from Benin with an offer that is difficult to refuse. Here it is:


Good day, how are you today? I am writing to inform you that I have paid the fee for your Draft. And I went to the bank to confirm if the draft has expired or getting near to expire and Mr. Ahmed Zafa the Director of the Bank told me that before the draft will get to your hand that it will expire.

So I told him to cash the $2,650,000.00 USD to cash payment to avoid losing this funds. However, all the necessary arrangement of delivering the $2,650,000.00 USD in cash was made with UNIVERSAL SECURITY COURIER COMPANY here in Benin Republic.

Mr. Ahmed Zafa the Director of the Bank here has to package the sum of $2,650,000.00 USD in cash for me. Then he also agreed to help me to register the Consignment with THE COURIER COMPANY. Infact I thank God very much for all the movement I made, every thing goes normally.

As for our agreement with the Courier Company they promised that your consignment will leave this Country on next week, But the Director of the COURIER COMPANY said that they need your contacts information’s to enable them meet up with you immediately the Diplomat Agent arrives to your Country. Please write a letter of application to the given address below.

ATTN: Mr. Moses Nwachukwu
HIS DIRECT EMAIL: ( mnwachukwu@sify.com )
Please, Send them your contacts information to enable them locate you immediately they arrived in your country with your BOX. This is what they need from you.


Please make sure you send this needed information to the Director General of Universal Security Courier Company Mr.Moses Nwachukwu with the address given to you.

Note. courier company doesn’t know the contents of the Box. It was registered as a BOX containing Film Materials. They don't know it contains money. This is to avoid them delaying with the BOX. Don’t let them know that is money that is in that Box.

Thanks and Remain Blessed.

Yours sister,
Ms. Mary Kitzman

There are really people that fall for this?


Your Obligatory Nobel Prize Discussion

Well this fucking sucks. I was all primed to kick off my tenure here at ATK with a delightfully irreverent piece about NASA’s moon bombing scheme complete with a photoshopped image of Charlton Heston kneeling before an exploded moon screaming “you maniacs! You blew it up!”, and then what happens? Thorbjorn Jagland and his fellow Norse lunatics in Oslow go and award the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama. Well, shit. You Maniacs! You blew it up! You blew up Rickey's post! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!

And so I am now compelled to engage in the vacant beard stroking and quasi knowledgeable wankery that has become the hallmark trait of Around the Keg (by the way, thanks for having me guys!).

Now I live in an area about an hour north of NYC, and while you’d suspect that proximity to that bastion of liberal decadence would yield a more forwardthinking populace in my neck of the woods, this unfortunately is not the case. No less than ten times already today I’ve been subjected to the “what has he done to deserve this?” query about the Nobel Prize story. And my answer is this: when’s the last time you were elected to be the first black President of the Harvard Law review? (Hell, the only one of us who’s got a decent shot at it is Bob, and he’d still need a flux capacitor to pull it off).

They may claim otherwise, but the Norwegian Nobel Committee obviously isn’t awarding Obama the prize for his accomplishments as President. This has been coming for a year now. This award was already signed, sealed, and postmarked in November of 2008. Is the award premature? No, it’s overdue. What Obama’s Presidential victory symbolized to the U.S. and the world at large is too great to gloss over, even a year after the fact.

Yes, it’s a big splashy political statement, and as any naysayer will gleefully point out, it’s coming from an institution that awarded the same prize to Henry Kissinger, Yassir Arafat, and Jimmy Carter (oh how the right loves to demonize Jimmy Carter).

I, for one, welcome the conclusions of our Norwegian overlords and look forward to the shot in the arm this will hopefully provide the Obama Administration. And on one thing I think we can all agree: Michelle Obama will be receiving a deep dicking tonight. Discuss amongst yourselves.


Weirdest Statement Ever

Thursday, October 08, 2009

H/T to John Scalzi for posting this. I agree with his sentiments. I am not really sure who this is for.


Don't laugh at Al.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Laugh all you want people, but Al Franken is no slouch of a Senator. Recently, he sponsored an amendment to insert boilerplate into a defense appropriations bill that will hold defense contractors more accountable for the way they treat their employees. Specifically preventing employees from signing away their right to go to court when they experience a sexual assault at work.

The amazing thing is 30 male, Republican Senators voted against the amendment.

What were they thinking? This is getting too easy.

Source: Think Progress via Balloon-Juice.


Where's Rickey?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

We here at Around the Keg are big fans of “Riding with Ricky.”

It has been a month or so since last we saw a post over at RwR. Visitors to the site are now greeted by a page stating that it has gone private. None of us would be shocked if the honeymoon picks got a little too risqué for the public, but frankly, we here at ATK are a little concerned. (And with no traffic at RwR, traffic is halved here at ATK.)

Despite the fact that recently Rickey threw off his alter ego and revealed that in fact he was NOT a black baseball hall of famer, we at ATK got over our shock and still love and appreciate the musings at RwR.

With that, we ask our readers: Where is Rickey? If someone knows, please have him contact us.


The Decline of Conservative Intellectualism

Steven Hayward had a good op-ed in the Washington Post, Is Conservatism Brain-Dead? This is certainly not the only article to address this issue and I could probably find many who would say that it has always been brain dead. Partisanship aside, I have been troubled by what is happening within the Conservative movement. It has been harder for me to defend it and I wondered if it was because my beliefs were shifting or was their something else at work. While my beliefs have changed, sometimes radically, I still think that there are many good conservative positions on a variety of issues.

So, what is wrong? According to Hayward, the balance between populism and intellectualism amond conservatives is skewed towards populism:

Today, however, the conservative movement has been thrown off balance, with the populists dominating and the intellectuals retreating and struggling to come up with new ideas. The leading conservative figures of our time are now drawn from mass media, from talk radio and cable news. We've traded in Buckley for Beck, Kristol for Coulter, and conservatism has been reduced to sound bites.

I agree that this isn't a good thing. I am not a complete snob and enjoy some level of populism, but the voices from the Right are overwhlemingly populist.

Yet it was not enough just to expose liberalism's weakness; it was also necessary to offer robust alternatives for both foreign and domestic policy, ideas that came to fruition in the Reagan years. Today, it is not clear that conservative thinkers have compelling alternatives to Obama's economic or foreign policy. At best, the right is badly divided over how to fix the economy and handle Iran and Afghanistan. So for the time being, the populists alone have the spotlight.

This can be seen in the health care debate, too. It is not enough to just sit there and yell about Big Government. You need to offer some constructive alternatives. I am certainly not going to argue that Conservative priciples are the ones we should follow (I don't even agree with all of them), but I would argue that a vigorous debate, that is characterized with reason and logic, is something that benefits us all. We are not getting enough of that from the Right.

As a kind of post script, I don't want to give the impression that the Left hasn't made the same mistake in the past, but they are far more balanced right now.


For The Sake of Curiosity

Monday, October 05, 2009

I offer you:

Fox's 2010 Great American Conservative Women calendar.


Great American Beer Fest

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Great American Beer Fest, held in Denver, Colorado, broke all the records again this year. Besides for thousands of people enjoying thousands of great beers, there is a nation-wide brewing competition. This is the country's premier brewing competition, and the gold medal winners have plenty of bragging rights.

First, some general stats:
**457 breweries in the festival hall
**2,100 beers served at the festival
**49,000 attendees (includes brewers, volunteers and ticket holders)
**3,000 volunteers
**495 breweries in the competition
**3,308 beers judged in the competition
**78 categories judged + Pro-Am category
**132 judges from ten countries (I wasn't one of them this year :( ...)
**Average number of competition beers entered in each category: 42
**Category with highest number of entries: 134, American Style India Pale Ale

The largest competition I have ever judged had 950 entries; a far cry from 3,308! It took from 9 until 6 to judge 950 beers with 50 judges and even then we were being pushed a bit. Good thing it takes more than 1 day to judge!

Michigan constituted 4% of all beers entered in the competition (138 entries), and 4% of all the winners (9 winners) putting our fine state in 6th place overall. Not too bad, given beer giants Colorado (45 winners), California (39), Oregon (22), Washington (13) and Pennsylvania (12) were ahead of us.

Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Coors Brewing Company, Golden, CO; Dr. David Ryder

Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, MD; Robert Malone

Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Dry Dock Brewing Company, Aurora, CO; Dry Dock Brewing Team

Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA; Pizza Port Brew Guys

Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Chuckanut Brewery, Bellingham, WA; Will Kemper

Instead of listing all winners, wich would be an unnecessarily long post, just go here.

But I do want to post the Michigan winners, so for your enjoyment, here's the pride of Michigan:

"Session Beer" Bronze Medal: Bam Biere from Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter.

"Experimental Beer" Silver Medal: Bloody Beer from Shorts Brewing Co. in Bellaire.

"Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer" Gold Medal: Cereal Killer from Arcadia Brewing Company in Battle Creek.

"Bohemian Style Pilsner" Bronze Medal: Bells' Lager Beer from Bells in Kalamazoo.

"Saison" Bronze Medal: Saison Du Bastone from Bastone Brewery in Royal Oak.

"Belgian-Style Lambic" Silver Medal: Red Rock from Big Rock Chop House in Birmingham.

"Robust Porter" Bronze Medal: Pirate's Porter from Black Forest Brew Haus and Grill in Frankenmuth.

"Sweet Stout" Silver Medal: Cream Stout from Redwood Brewing Company in Flint.

"Old/Strong Ale" Bronze Medal: Dementia Old Ale from Kuhnhenn's in Warren.

Congrats to our Michigan winners! Be sure to patronize these breweries and give a nod to the fine brewers there.


Corruption, Congressional-Style

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The left-leaning (according to the article) watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), recently put out a list of the most corrupt members of Congress. While I think that lists like this one make for interesting conversation, I usually take them with a grain of salt. They are often pretty partisan and subjective. This one seems pretty good, though. There may be more corrupt members of Congress, but there is no denying that the people listed here haven't done some rotten stuff or at east have behaved in a way that isn't ethical.

"With the economy in a free-fall, unemployment rates at record highs and health care solutions still nowhere in sight, members should be spending their time looking for answers to the nation’s problems, not finding new ways to enrich themselves," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW.

I can't agree more. Go ahead and peruse the list and tell me what you think. It seems to be well referenced.


Monday Haggis Blogging

Monday, September 21, 2009

After months of threats, I finally bit the bullet and made haggis this weekend with Greg, the same Greg who gave me Friday's beer for review. That Greg. The thing about Greg and I is that it is impossible to gross us out. There is nothing you can do or say to turn our stomachs. For instance, Greg introduced chocolate pudding fruit to the Nerdery one evening. This is a fruit that must actually begin to rot before it is edible. We found that it had the consistency of pudding, and had a vague chocolate taste to it (made better by the addition of actual cocoa powder). If it promises to be sick, disgusting, and unappetizing, Greg and I will eat it and laugh.

Thanks to Food Network's Alton Brown for the recipe and the fine and good-natured butchers over at Merindorf Meats (an amazingly well-stocked butcher shop in town) for the offal, we set out to make the haggis.

Haggis requires:

  • 1 sheep liver
  • 1 sheep heart
  • 1 sheep tongue
  • 1/2 pound of toasted oats
  • 3 onions
  • salt, pepper, dried herbs of your choosing
  • 1/2 lb. of suet
  • 1 stomach
Merindorf Meats ordered most of the stuff for me. Unfortuately, haggis also calls for lung. But sheep lung is apparently illegal in the U.S. for reasons you can guess. But everthing else was there.
First off, I thought I'd thrill you with pictures of the tongues, livers and hearts:
Yummy. At any rate, you boil the organ meats for two hours. My house smelled far, far less than fantastic at the end of that two-hour stretch. So much so we had to open all the windows and Mrs. Smitty, who at this point has been more than understanding, lit some candles.

At the end of the boil, you mince the organ meats, and mix them with minced suet, minced onions and the toasted oats. Really, when it's all mixed together, you have an offal meatloaf of sorts.

(your truly, mixing)
After mixing, Greg and I decided to add some beer to one of the two batches we made up (yes, two batches of haggis) for flavor and to make it a little more moist. Then, we stuffed the unholy mass into the stomachs.
And here are the stomachs, all full of guts:
Looks great eh? At any rate, when they're all stuffed and ready, you put them in a pot of boiling water for three hours. We had to add water occasionally for a boil that length. At the end of the three hours, pull them out:

...slice them open:

...and serve it with mashed potatoes, a pint of beer, and some bagpipe music!
Honestly, it was...good. Not just good, but pretty tatsy. Somthing I'd cook again, and maybe spice-up with other flavors like cumin, corriander, maybe some cayenne pepper for a little kick. It is also astoundingly filling. After one plate of it, I was pretty full. Lots of oats, lots of meat, and all that suet (unrefined beef fat) really fill you up good. Greg and I were a little bummed that it wasn't more disgusting, and that this dinner would be some crazy badge of honor thing. But no. We got an interesting, time-consuming and tasty meatloaf.

So what's next for Greg and Smitty's Inedible Palate Dinner? Kokoretsi? Or perhaps Lutefisk? We shall see...


The Best Of Both Worlds

Thursday, September 17, 2009

One of my very best friends recently took a well-deserved vacation with his lovely wife, and returned with beers for me to sample!

See, folks, this is the way to assure my undying loyalty. Greg figured it out.

At any rate, among the beers he handed me for review are a couple of samples from Terrapin Beer in Athens, Georgia. I have often heard very good things about this brewery, so I was secretly thrilled to pieces that some of my upcoming beer samples will be from this brewery. I had to play it cool, though, and not act all giddy-kid-at-Christmas about it.

Enough about me. On to the beer!
Terrapin India Brown Ale bottle describes this beer as a "head-on collision between a hoppy west coast IPA and a malty, complex brown ale." Thats what I cal a specialty beer. Hoppy west coast IPA? Some of my favorite beers. Malty brown ale? My favorite kind of "session beer." But an IPA and a brown ale at the same time isn't just an Odd Couple mismatch. This is Mozart meets Nirvana.

It poured a nutty, deep brown into the glass with just a hint of a ruby hue as the light on my bar shone through it. The dense, rocky latte consistency head stayed the whole glass, clinging tightly to the sides drink after drink. Translucent due to the color, it was still a crystal-clear beer.

I don't even know where to begin with the aromas in this beer, given the confluence of two completely different beer styles, which the bottle boasts as 5 different hop varieties and 7 malts. It is a no-holds-barred duel of all of my favorite beery scents: pepper leads-off with a mano-a-mano fight with caramel malts. Chocolate grapples with grassy, earthy hops in a battle neither will win. Bright, orangey citrus gets in a shoving match with a sweet maltiness. But all of this aromatic melee is more like a well-choreographed judo match than a nasty brawl. It's all beautiful, lovely art.

The taste is like nothing I have ever had before. It would be crass to say it was like one mouthful of two beers like a cheap frat-house beer bong mixer. No, this beer is a dance between unlikely but graceful partners. The closest I can come to describing this beer is to say that hop-wise, it's a strong IPA. But instead of the bready, doughy, thick-sweet malt to back up all the hops, I get a beautiful Brit nut brown ale malt flavor of the highest caliber. If you've ever had one of those high-end chocolates mixed with some sort of exotic pepper, you have tasted one of the essences of this beer. Complex hop flavors found in my favorite west coast IPAs like citrus, pine and pepper waltz with a sweet nuttiness, chocolate, and dried prunes and apricots and leave me dizzy but oh so elated. One sip leaves me with chocolate covered oranges. Another with pepper-coated apricots. I just want more.

This medium-bodied, well-carbonated beer is a true pleasure to drink. There are so many flavors to enjoy, and Terrapin beautifully merged two beers that I love to pieces. Far from a disaster, this beer is a trend-setter. There's a little something for every beer lover here; for some, it will be unique and different. For others, it will be a true pleasure. I think it's pretty clear where this reviewer falls.


What's their motivation?

Liberals, and likely many normal conservatives, don’t understand the freak show that showed up at the Hundred Hypocrite Huddle in D.C. last week. The so-called “TEA” movement never made an appearance when the Bush administration, passed TARP, created the Medicare pharma benefit and otherwise spent money like a rock star, yet all of a sudden our country is in peril when Obama shows up? Heck, we aren’t even spending under an Obama budget yet and the main thing he has spent money on was a simulus bill, 42% of which was tax cuts. The teabagger hypocrisy cannot be explained by most normal folk, so I ask:

What motivates them?

In the everyday American’s mind it leaves a few options:

  • They are driven my pure partisanship. (Possible)
  • They are a coalition of single issue voters who together call themselves a movement. (Possible)
  • They are driven by religious opposition to Obama’s religion or his social polices. (Possible)
  • They are freaked out that Obama is a black guy now that he is in charge. (Possible)
  • All of the above. (Possible)

While I am not yet convinced that Jimmy Carter did anyone a favor by calling these people racist, I am not convinced that race isn’t part of what drives part of this group.

What do you think?



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