Follow the Money

Friday, July 31, 2009

I'll be the first to admit that I have a difficult time understanding all of the variables in the health care debate. Andrew Sullivan offers this piece where he presents some info from several other bloggers. It doesn't come as much as a surprise, but it sure is frustrating and disturbing.


Double The Fun

ATK-occasional Greg happened upon some of Long Trail (Vermont) Brewing Company's Double Bag Ale. He described it as, eloquently, "pretty good!" He passed me a couple of bottles and I am thrilled to give it a shot. It is described as an American Strong Ale, which is essentially a barleywine like I reviewed last week. And I like a good barleywine.

Double Bag poured a beautiful, crystal clear copper with a thin but resilient head, eggshell white, that faded to a lovely lacing across the top of the beer. The thin lace clung to the sides of the glass all the way down to the last drop. I never expected to see a barleywine so beautifully clear, and the high alcohol gives the beer a visible viscosity.

The aroma holds so much enticing promise. Apple cider. Caramel. A whole range of floral aromas. Toffee. And to top it all off, a lovely alcohol ester, heady and spicy. This had all the sticky-sweet aromas of a pastry shop; tiramisu and other boozy sweet surprises.

Big rich chewy malt greets my tongue, toasted grains, all fading to a lingering sweetness. The sweet is tempered by a tangy hop that tips the balance towards bitter. Not quite citrus, not quite earthy, but sharp on the tongue like black tea. The toasty grain and malt flavors hang on throughout the beer with the leafy hops as the fumy alcohol warms the body of the beer along the way. The beer, despite being served cold, is as warm and inviting as my best friend's dinner table.

The beer has body, but isn't syrupy. The alcohol is warming without being solventy, and lightens the body of the beer a bit, helping it be as drinkable as it is. Scrubby bubbles cleanse your tongue between quaffs, but just enough to add to the flavors of the beer. It is just a tad watery for a barleywine, but that's only a small mark against this otherwise very fine beer.

I really enjoyed Double Bag Ale. It was all the appropriate parts grainy, malty, bitter and warm. I can't figure out what the hell the label has to do with the beer, but maybe if I was a Vermont native I'd get it. Regardless of the label, this was a fun ride!


Happiness is...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

...thinking you have a near empty pantry and no beer in the refrigerator and then discovering a Bell’s Consecrator Doppelbock at the back of the fridge.

It’s a miracle.


Timmy G and the Housing Crisis

I really miss Mike's commentary on the economy and especially his take on Geithner's machinations. Hopefully, we can expect something from him when things settle down at work. Until then, I saw this on the Daily Show and thought it was pretty good.

Home Crisis Investigation
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day


You Have Chosen...Poorly

I am prepping a post on the whole birther phenomenon. I am not going to debunk that myth; many many many others have already done so. Mine instead will be a discussion about why this is happening, and what happens to a political party when the only people left in it are nucking futz.

But my dreams for such a heady post were shattered this this.

Today is the day that President Obama hosts Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and his arresting officer, Sergeant James "Mr. Crowley" Crowley. The President quipped that he would invite the two to the White House and have a beer to cool things off. What beers will they serve?

Professor Gates said he liked Red Stripe...
[sigh] OK. Red Stripe. So the POTUS will supply some Red Stripe for Professor Gates. Sgt. Crowley?
Sergeant Crowley mentioned to the president that he liked Blue Moon
Oh dear. OK. So Sgt. Crowley likes Blue Moon. It's starting to look more like a collegiate tailgate than a relaxed conversation in the Prez's back yard. How about the Prez? Will Obama pick a Dogfish Head? Stone? Could he know about the fine beers we have here in Michigan and go with a New Holland or Founders or Shorts? Will he go with the highly-visible Sierra Nevada?
"The president will drink Bud Light," [White House Press Secretary] Mr. Gibbs added.
NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! SAY IT AIN'T SO!!! I had such, oh, what's the word...HOPE...that Obama would choose a beer that supports American workers, American brewers and American beer! Is this guy even American?

Well, I'm not the only one disappointed in POTUS's choice of beers.
"We would hope they would pick a family-owned, American beer to lubricate the conversation," said Bill Manley, a spokesman for the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., a California-based brewer that happens to be family-owned.

Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Co., which brews Samuel Adams, decried "the foreign domination of something so basic and important to our culture as beer."

Genesee Brewery, Rochester, N.Y., released a statement congratulating the president for having beer at the meeting but adding: "We just hope the next time the President has a beer, he chooses an American beer, made by American workers, and an American-owned brewery like Genesee."


For the past several days, David von Storch, co-founder of Capitol City Brewing Company -- which owns a brewpub just a few blocks from the White House -- has been lobbying the administration to serve his company's "Equality Ale."

"What better beer to have them drink than the only beer brewed in the District of Columbia, Capitol City Brewing Company Equality Ale!" Mr. von Storch wrote in an email he sent Tuesday to several White House staffers.


Dan Kenary, president of Boston-based Harpoon Brewery, said he wanted to make a run at getting some of his beer into the meeting but couldn't find any intermediaries with close White House contacts. "I think just showing up at the gate with a case of Harpoon would make them look at us funny," he said.
Fellow keggers, I need you to write President Obama and express your disappointment in the fact that he has chosen not only 3 foreign-owned beers, but 3 mass-produced beers as well. So much for family-owned small American businesses. So much for American craft beer. Urge the President to support American craft beer. Local communities and small businesses are counting on his leadership to show America that craft beer isn't just a fad, it's a Presidential priority!

The end of the article cracked me up:
Maureen Ogle, author of "Ambitious Brew, The Story of American Beer," said that by holding the summit, the President risks criticism from groups working to persuade the public to drink less alcohol.

For instance, there is the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which led the fight for Prohibition in the early 20th century. Rita K. Wert, the group's national president, said her organization is disappointed that the president is serving beer at all. "There are so many other beverages he could have chosen that would have served just as well," she said, mentioning lemonade or iced tea.
Huh? Lemonwhat? Was somebody talking?


People have asked. Red Stripe is a London-based Diageo beer. Blue Moon is brewed by Coors, owned by London-based SAB Miller. Bud Lite is Belgium/Brazil-based InBev. Sure, it's still a union beer brewed in America, but it's like the Honda of beers. It's brewed here, but it ain't a local business no more.


The Road Less Traveled

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Since most of us on ATK can read, we should all know that Sarah Palin formally stepped-down this weekend. As we have also mostly heard, her speech was a disjointed trainwreck. My personal favorite was the part where she criticized the MSM for "making stuff up" when by all accounts she herself made up most of what she said during her campaign. And we all still suffer from the aftershocks of the crap that was made-up during the last election.

Cole on Balloon Juice sums it up nicely: "Twenty years ago she could competently descibe a dog race, three years ago she could articulate a position on the abortion issue, and this weekend she composed a resignation speech by throwing culture war stock phrases into a hat and dumping it upside down on a copy of The Paranoid Style in American Politics."

But this video here is so perfectly satirical of that portion of her speech where she tried to wax poetic about Alaska that I watched it multiple times just to relish in the joke. Enjoy.

She was almost our veep.


Due to copywrite crap, I had to ditch the YouTube clip and go with an embed from NBC. Nazis.


Turning Barley Into Wine

Friday, July 24, 2009

I have been aging a bottle of Weyerbacher's Blithering Idiot, which is their Barleywine Ale. A Barleywine is the opposite of a Double or Triple IPA; where those are hop bombs, these are typically malt monsters. But like a DIPA or a TIPA has malt to provide a hint of balance, barleywines should have some hop presence for that same suggestion of balance. Funny enough, my mother in law picked this up for me on a trip to Florida recently because she thought the name and the bottle were funny.

I poured the beer into an Imperial pint glass. It was a light muddy brown with ruby red hues when held against the light, with some dusty sediment (perfectly fine and natural for a beer like this) that got stirred-up when I opened it. It poured with a thick, fluffy meringue-like head, but unfortunately it dissipated very quickly to almost nothing but some lacing on the top.

The aroma packed a wallop of massive dark, ripe fruit esters: dates and figs and plums. Another smell yielded chocolate. Yet another: brown sugar. But after a few good whiffs, my head spun from the unmistakably dominant alcohol. The booze in this beer, at over 11%, provided peppery spice and an unfortunate solventy aroma to the beer. It wasn't quite "dark fruit and sugar covered in turpentine, but it was approaching that.

My first quaff stung my tongue with alcohol. My taste buds were assaulted by massive dark fruit backed by a huge alcohol burn. This beer is Darwin's dream: only the strongest and fittest flavors survive the alcohol onslaught. Massive malty sweetness, almost cloyingly so, competes rum, raisins, dates and coffee; no light flavors here. Remember the days of jungle juice at a college party, where all you tasted (if you were lucky) was fruit soaked in booze? That's this beer: big dark fruits soaked in rum and vodka. Carmelized brown sugar pokes through the mess as well. And there, somewhere, was a lonely hop screaming for help, drowning in a sea of maltiness. Not even enough of a hop to add bitterness or balance; just a lonely little hop, as if someone begrudgingly added hops because beer is "supposed to have them." This beer is a malt hammer on the anvil of my tongue.

The beer had a massive, creamy mouthfeel with light carbonation. The heavy malts added lots of body to the beer, and the alcohol, while predominant, was still pleasantly warming all the way down like a shot of scotch.

I should have cellared this for a lot longer, like a year. Perhaps the alcohol would have subsided a bit and some of the bigger flavors would have mellowed. At 11%+, this is a beer that can handle a cellar for a loooong time and maybe even benefit from it. It had qualities that I enjoy in a big malt bomb barleywine, with all the sugars and big fruits, but the alcohol just rode roughshod all over everything. This barley field just got trampled by heavy cavalry. I would have liked more hops to provide the illusion of balance and perhaps they would show more if I aged it. Perhaps not. I will definitely get another bottle, and just store it.


Conan's Comedy Bait

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From the guys over at Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Nachos, I got clued in to a recurring bit on the Conan O'Brien show about his executive producer, Jordan Schlansky. Jordan is the height of metrosexuality and pretension and Conan eats it up.
The web site Warming Glow sums these segments up perfectly:

Schlansky enjoys Tuscan food, fine wine, the band Rush, ballroom dancing, and shaving his chest. He first appeared in a “Late Night” segment during the writers’ strike last winter, which led to Conan taping a segment in which they had dinner together, which finally led to last night’s segment.

I don’t know, maybe I’m alone in this, but there’s some kind of magical comedic balance between Conan’s utter zaniness and Schlansky’s total self-seriousness that makes for compelling, hilarious television.
Rather than my posting the 3 videos here, just follow this link and go watch them. It is somehow amazingly compelling television to watch this total self-important straightman bust on himself by simply being himself, and watch Conan explode all around this walking sea of tranquility. Solid belly-laughs for Hump Day.


Houston. Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20, 1969


Not Just Your Average Fruit Beer

Friday, July 17, 2009

As some of the ATK regulars know, contributor Sopor was recently hired as a brewer at the Mt. Pleasant Brewing Company in Mt Pleasant, Michigan. We are, of course, thrilled that one of our own is officially in the big leagues.

Sopor graciously supplies me with some of their beers so that we can review them. I promised him to be objective; if a beer needs work, it needs work, and it yields a better product. If a beer is truly great, then they can run with it (not that my reviews mean much...). Sopor is also going to post some pieces and pictures about days in the life of a real brewer. That will be some great insight and I look forward to his posts.

At any rate, one of the beers he dropped off the other day is Mt. Pleasant Brewing Company's Coal Stokers Blackberry Ale, with real blackberry juice added to the brew. Let's begin!

Sopor's beer poured a hazy amber into my pint glass. It added a purple hue to that lovely amber and yielded a bit of a purplish-white head that settled quickly.

Coal Stokers had a nice berry aroma over the top of everything; not too much, and not so scant that it was supressed. What was nice about the aroma with this beer s that th sweet berry wasn't all-powerful, like those horrid imitation blueberry beers. This was balanced by a solid malt backbone. The malty roastiness and sweetness really shined along with the berry.

Pleasantly, this beer was balanced between berry and malt as I drank it. There is a touch of sweetness to this beer; the fruit character is evident, but like the aroma, it's not overwhelming. The beer is also slightly tart. I got malt and roast first, followed by a run of fruit flavor: blackberry jam and juice and even raspberry notes. I didn't get a hop presence at all, and I honestly would have liked some for just a little variation on the taste. Maybe a West Coast hop for some citrus or a German hop for some earthy/spicy flavors to add some complexity. This was a medium-bodied beer, a little watery-thin, with moderate amounts of carbonation. The carbonation was enough to let you know it's beer without being too scrubby-bubbles about it or without being, as some fruit beers are, tragically flat.

All in all, this is a really nice fruit beer. It is unmistakably the kind of fruit it says it is, but it's not cloying and actually tastes very natural. I did not get a sense that this is artificial or extract-like. There are so many fruit beers that are over-the-top in their fruit flavors (see my review about Founder's Cerise), but this one struck a decent balance. I gave a bottle to one of my neighbors, who shared it with his wife who normally dislikes beer. They really liked this beer and are interested in getting more. It pleased both the beer crowd and the non-beer crowd.

Great effort from the Mt. Pleasant Brewing folks! I liked it as much as Sammy A's Cherry Wheat (though with all honesty, one of the best fruit beers ever brewed is DFH's Aprihop).


Sotomayor and Fundamental Rights

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Randy Barnett, over on Volokh, has a good take on part of the Sotomayor hearings. It deals with a line of questions from Orrin Hatch and Russ Feingold. Unlike some past hearings, these were really good, substantive question, especially the ones from Feingold. Barnett points out that:

more than once she said a right was "fundamental" if it was "incorporated" into the fourteenth amendment.
I agree with the author...that is backwards. A right is incorporated if it is fundamental. I am not sure if she just didn't understand the question or it is her belief that a right isn't fundamental unless a court says the 14th Amendment "incorporates" it. I hope it is not the latter, because that would most certainly go against majority opinion.

Read the excerpts from the article. Again, I tend to agree with the author. Sotomayor gives responses that are totally lacking in substance. I can understand a desire to be cautious, but the questions being asked here are fair, relevant, and important. She owes us a decent effort and well-thought out answers.


Dads and Sons

Monday, July 13, 2009

If the guys out in ATK-land are anything like me, their relationship with their Dad isn’t always the easiest. My 71 year old Dad is a great guy. He taught me patriotism, civic duty, a good work ethic and many of my morals. Unfortunately, we are a little too much like each other, which can sometimes strain a relationship. The things we talk about are fine, which includes our common interests in home improvement, cars, woodworking, etc. That said, there aren’t too many fun activities around those otherwise superficial interests that allow Dad and I to hang together.

I am not attempting to turn ATK into a male version of We Television or The View. Instead, I am looking for some recommended father and son activities that you and Dad (or Mom for that matter) might have done that would make a memorable trip or event.

Any suggestions?


Gotta Be the Shoes...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My last trial was a divorce where the defendant had represented himself up until a few months before the trial. He filed a few really ridiculous motions, but this one from a Florida court takes the cake. It is a:

Motion to Compel Defense Counsel To Wear Appropriate Shoes

Here are some excerpts from that Motion:

1. This is an action alleging personal injuries . . . .

2. Trial is set to begin on June 15, 2009.

3. It is well known in the legal community that Michael Robb, Esquire, wears shoes with holes in the soles when he is in trial.

4. Upon reasonable belief, Plaintiff believes that Mr. Robb wears these shoes as a ruse to impress the jury and make them believe that Mr. Robb is humble and simple without sophistication. . . .

* * *

6. Part of this strategy is to present Mr. Robb and his client as modest individuals who are so frugal that Mr. Robb has to wear shoes with holes in the soles. Mr. Robb is known to stand at sidebar with one foot crossed casually beside the other so that the holes in his shoes are readily apparent to the jury . . . .

7. Then, during argument and throughout the case Mr. Robb throws out statements like "I'm just a simple lawyer" with the obvious suggestion that Plaintiff's counsel and the Plaintiff are not as sincere and down to earth as Mr. Robb.

8. Mr. Robb should be required to wear shoes without holes in the soles at trial to avoid the unfair prejudice suggested by this conduct.

It is an interesting strategy on both parts, but I have never heard of anything like this being tried. The Judge denied the motion. If I were the moving party I would have to say I would be mad that I was being billed for that motion, but they ultimately won the trial.

Lowering the Bar has added this motion to the Archive of Useful Pleadings. There are some pretty good ones. I know that I plan on using the Motion for a Fistfight the next chance I get.


Justice: Obama Style

Friday, July 10, 2009

When the President announced he would be closing Guantanamo, one of my fears is that this move lacked substance and many of the more onerous War on Terrorism policies would continue. While torture seems to thankfully be discontinued, rendition still occurs. Even worse than this is news that the Administration will ignore due process in the results of trials if they don't agree with the outcome. Reason covered an exchange between Sen. Martinez (R-Fl) and Defense Department Counsel Johnson, where Johnson said:

You raised the issue of what happens if there's an acquittal, and in my judgment, as a matter of legal authority...if a review panel has determined this person is a security threat...and should not be released, if for some reason he is not convicted for a lengthy prison sentence, then as a matter of legal authority I think it's our view that we would have the ability to detain him.

The word show trial comes to mind. If some other panel can just ignore due process and detain a person, then you don't really have due process. Glenn Greenwald had a good analysis. He pointed out that:

In its own twisted way, the Bush approach was actually more honest and transparent: they made no secret of their belief that the President could imprison anyone he wanted without any process at all. That's clearly the Obama view as well, but he's creating an elaborate, multi-layered, and purely discretionary "justice system" that accomplishes exactly the same thing while creating the false appearance that there is due process being accorded. And for those who -- to justify what Obama is doing -- make the not unreasonable point that Bush left Obama with a difficult quandary at Guantanamo, how will that excuse apply when these new detention powers are applied not only to existing Guantanamo detainees but to future (i.e., not-yet-abducted) detainees as well?

I can understand that the President is under a great deal of pressure from both sides of this protect the US from terrorists and to provide detainees with some level of due process. I just can't help thinking that subverting the Constitution to provide a feeling of safety is not the road we want to continue down. I was hoping that this Bush-era policy would not continue.


I am NOT Going to Talk About Michael Jackson

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

While a gazillion people wax poetic about how, in some alternate universe, Michael Jackson single-handedly broke down race barriers for entertainers, musicians, sports figures and children, there's some other pretty big shit going-down today:

President Obama visited Russia today. Nobody is apparently going to bomb anybody, and in fact, there will be further nucLEAR disarmament.

While meeting with some guarded success, American and Coalition troops are dying.

1,400 Chinese protestors were arrested this morning, with some Muslim Chinese expressing frustration over being treated as "second-class citizens." The Chinese government "took all the usual steps to enshrine its version of events as received wisdom: it crippled Internet service; blocked Twitter’s micro-blogs; purged search engines of unapproved references to the violence; saturated the Chinese media with the state-sanctioned story."

Mahmoud Ahmadalphabet says that the Iranian elections "were clean, fair and were the start of a new era." Please try to stifle laughter. The opposition is demanding the release of people taken into custody during the protests.

Siciliano's Market, a beer and homebrewing store in Grand Rapids, MI, made a big-time national blog today! I know ATK contributor Sopor is a big Siciliano's patron...

Just, you know, for some perspective that despite certain national days of mourning, Marines and soldiers are getting blown up, Obama is trying to make sure Putin doesn't slip a knife between his shoulder blades, 1,400 people are arrested and a State censors its own populations from the facts, a half-crazed dictator declares himself the winner of an election after beating and arresting anyone who said he wasn't, and a local beer supply shop makes big news!



Friday, July 03, 2009

Resigning is no way to pad your resume Governor.




Potential Drunks

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