Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

I love this time of year. I love the look in my kids' faces as they open the unexpected packages and get things they only dreamed of.

My family, like many of yours is amazingly fortunate to be able to celebrate Christmas the way we do. People like MIT celebrate it the way we ought to...by giving to those with nothing at all.

Whatever your persuasion, whatever your circumstance, whatever your belief, please find peace and joy these next few days, and may it be enough to last until this same time next year.

Merry Christmas!

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Bi-Partisanship

Monday, December 20, 2010

This op-ed from Frank Rich in Saturday's NYT pretty much sums-up what I think about "bipartisanship," couched under this new, silly No Labels Party.

A few gems:

Presumably No Labels ditched “lean” because it’s too muscular a verb for a group whose stated goals include better schools, affordable health care and more jobs — as long as they can be achieved “in a fiscally prudent way.” To proselytize for such unimpeachable verities, no leaning is required — you can do it frozen in place, and just possibly in your sleep.

The notion that civility and nominal bipartisanship would accomplish any of the heavy lifting required to rebuild America is childish magical thinking, and, worse, a mindless distraction from the real work before the nation. Sure, it would be swell if rhetorical peace broke out in Washington — or on cable news networks — but given that American politics have been rancorous since Boston’s original Tea Party, wishing will not make it so.

...

WHAT America needs is not another political organization with a toothless agenda and less-than-transparent finances. The country will not rest easy until there are brave leaders in both parties willing to reform the system that let perpetrators of the Great Recession escape while the rest of us got stuck with the wreckage [emphasis added]...“Nobody from Lehman, Merrill Lynch or Citigroup has been charged criminally with anything. No top executives at Bear Stearns have been indicted. All former American International Group executives are running free.” For No Labels to battle this status quo would require actual political courage — true bipartisan courage, in fact.
The entire article is worth a read and takes a few minutes. It provides several examples of Congressional officials on "bipartisan" commissions who then vote-down their very own commission's recommendations to appease whatever political beast they owe their careers to.

There are gobs of examples of bipartisanship that falls apart in the face of actual partisan votes, because at the end of the day, elected officials dance with who brung 'em. Compromise under the mealy-mouthed bipartisanship that DC has given us so far tends to screw lefty views. When the left doesn't compromise (DADT, for example), they get what they want and what they were sent to Washington for. When they don't, the right "wins." For their part, the right functions the same way: to get what you want, you can't compromise. It gets worse when we look at financial matters. John Q Public is getting fucked by our corporate masters. But all bipartisan attempts to regulate them break down to the point where bipartisan recommendations fail, and the regulations one side wants are watered-down so much due to their own sad allegiance with Wall Street that ultimately, the other side of the argument wins yet again: laissez faire business regulation. Shit, Congress caught the big financial corporations with their pants down, rescued them, then acquiesced when those rescued corporations had the gall to bitch about the regs!! Bipartisanship of the garden DC variety ain't gonna solve that. That'll take a real bipartisan effort to change the way politicians deal with influence.

It will take massive institutional change to make the system actually change for the better. And right now, our ruling oligarchs certainly won't let that happen.

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No Shame In Their Game

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Great 8 minutes. The last minute and a half should be next election's attack ad.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Lame-as-F@#k Congress
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

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The War On Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's on, people. The War On Christmas is officially here.

Our friendly, loving, and accepting neighbors over at the American Family Association (the same folks who believe that there should be legal sanctions against homosexual behavior) have provided us with a list of companies who are either strictly against Christmas, completely for Christmas, or all Switzerland-y in regards to Christmas.

For the sake of keeping you lazy bastards from clicking too many links, the list of Anti-Christmas Agressors includes:
--Banana Republic (NEW!)
--Barnes & Noble
--CVS Pharmacy
--Foot Locker
--Gap Stores (NEW!)
--Hancock Fabrics
--NASCAR
--L.L. Bean (NEW!)
--Office Depot
--Radio Shack
--Staples
--SUPERVALU
--Victoria's Secret

Some of these I can see. Banana Republic is an affront to common-sense fashion if ever there was, and Barnes & Noble encourages us to read books other than The Bible. But Victoria's Secret?? The gifts purchased there certainly encourage straight, monogamous, traditional scrumping. What gives?? And NASCAR? What am I supposed to watch on tv??

But at least we have Best Buy and Wal Mart there right by our side in defense of Christmas. I feel encouraged that if I can't get high-quality-but-certainly-atheist Victoria Secrets lingerie to spur my Christmas Eve monkey sex fest, I can get a less expensive knock-off from Wal Mart and have enough money to maybe buy a cheap video camera from Best Buy. And then, I can create more troops to fight this War On Christmas.

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Cutting a Deal

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

I don't much like the deal President Obama cut with House and Senate Republicans to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest and unemployment benefits. There is no evidence that tax cuts make a significant impact to economic growth, but I believe extending unemployment benefits will.  I worry about the impact the entire package will have on the deficit.  Half of me wants it to pass, half of me wants it to fail.

Legislators are saying Obama caved, or he compromised, or he gave in to blackmail. In his press conference, Obama seemed to admit it was blackmail.  The New York Times has another take

Each description may be true, but isn't it hypocritical for Democratic legislators to complain considering they cannot get anything better through the legislature, even though they hold majorities in both chambers? Isn't it their job to elect effective leaders who will get something better through Congress?

If they don’t like it, pass something better. Obama will sign it.

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Someone Else Do It

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Starting in about 45 minutes (it's 9:45 a.m. in Michigan right now), the legislature will go into session.  I expect them to go straight into tomorrow, well-past midnight.

Someone else blog something.  I'm out.

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Don't Call Me Shirley

Monday, November 29, 2010

Leslie Nielsen died yesterday at the age of 84.

Apparently, he was a dramatic actor before he switched to comedy, which is of course how most of us at ATK remember him. The Naked Gun movies were silly, but not as hilarious as Airplane.

From NPR:

He grew up 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle at Fort Norman, where his father was an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The parents had three sons, and Nielsen once recalled, "There were 15 people in the village, including five of us. If my father arrested somebody in the winter, he'd have to wait until the thaw to turn him in."

The elder Nielsen was a troubled man who beat his wife and sons, and Leslie longed to escape. As soon as he graduated from high school at 17, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, even though he was legally deaf (he wore hearing aids most of his life.)

After the war, Nielsen worked as a disc jockey at a Calgary radio station, then studied at a Toronto radio school operated by Lorne Greene, who would go on to star on the hit TV series Bonanza. A scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse brought him to New York, where he immersed himself in live television.
Canada produces some of my favorite comedians. Go fig.

Anyway, I'll raise a pint to Leslie Nielsen this evening. And I'll listen to this while I do!

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Brew Masters

Monday, November 22, 2010

Last night, a new show debuted on the Discovery Channel called Brew Masters. This is my kind of reality show.

You get an inside view of the world of craft brewing as the show follows Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware (one of my favorite breweries and a damn good brewer). Why Dogfish Head? Their motto - Off-Centered Ales for Off-Centered People - says it all. The show highlights Sam's travels and travails as he works to push the envelope with his beers.

Yesterday's episode brought together all the players at Dogfish Head as Sony Records asked them to brew a commemorative beer for the re-release of Miles Davis' ground-breaking Bitches Brew. Calagione worked to create a fusion beer to match with Davis's fusion jazz, and the result is a beer I am going to try hard to find.

The show is fast-paced and well-produced. It does a good job of showing who Calagione really is: a total half-hippie kook who loves beer and brews a damn good one. He makes the show what it is with his half-crazed, nerd-uncomfortable-in-his-own-skin commentary, stacked on top of his pure, palpable passion for brewing and exploring the outer boundaries of beer. This is one hour wells-pent.

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In Case You Needed Clarification...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I found this article on the WaPo's new "On Faith" column. Normally, I read this column because I hate it and it makes me insane. For some reason, I need that in my day; that anger, that cleansing self-flagellation of reading things that make me furious. But this article this time? I agreed.

It's written by a Jesuit, and is extremely critical of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The article is clear on their partisanship:

This year, as president of the bishops' conference, he [Cardinal Francis George] led the attack on President Obama's healthcare bill, which he claims will fund abortions even though the Catholic Health Association disagrees.
...
The conservative tilt of the bishops' conference was shown even more clearly by the election for vice president. After two votes, the final runoff was between the two most conservative candidates of the eight bishops on the ballot: Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, who wants to ban pro-choice politicians from Communion, and Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, chair of the bishops' committee on the defense of marriage--the committee assigned to fight gay marriage. [emphasis added by me]
Now, none of this is particularly remarkable; gee, go figure, the Catholic Church is weighing heavily into our trumped-up "culture wars." Nothing really new there. But the article ends with the real point by this Jesuit, and it's the one that really got me going:
What is most remarkable about this meeting is that it took place in the middle of the most devastating economic downturn since the Great Depression, and the bishops said nothing about it. It was as if they did not know that almost 10 percent of their parishioners are unemployed, that the new Congress is going to take aim at programs helping the poor and that now is the time to speak out for social justice. Their silence was deafening.
There. It. Is. When it comes time for the Catholic Church's leadership to show their true colors on social justice issues, they don't. They stick with gays and abortion.

Tone deaf as ever, it saddens me that Catholic enrollment is up 1.94%. I'm not sad for the church (I rarely attend) per se, I'm sad because that means that this is a reflection of the priorities of parishoners. With 1% of the U.S. holding not only 34% of the U.S.'s wealth but also a wealth that is more than the bottom 90% of our population as an aggregate, with the gap between rich and poor widening, and with more people being forced from their homes and in need of services...ma and pa Hackett still only care about gays and abortions.

Or is it just that they find a spiritual home in the Catholic Church, whose leaders are simply tone-deaf to their parishoners' real needs?

Or...are the poor not going to mass because, amidst homilies on abortion, biblical literalism and gays, does the church really offer them nothing?

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I Do Not Care

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

God save the queen!  We mean, it, maaaaaan...
I do not give one single itty bitty flying fuck about roayl weddings, Princes, future Princesses, Queens and Kings. I don't care who Prince William or Henry, whichever it is, if that's their names, marries a hot chick (though I do care that she is hot). I don't care that the wedding may coincide with the Queen's "diamond jubilee," whatever the flipping freak that is. And when you report that both this royal wedding, which you have reported ad nauseum at least a year before it's even happening, and this "diamond jubilee" are desired by the royal family as "conservative, un-elaborate affairs," I want to choke on my own laughter and bile.

So please, NPR, CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS, major newspapers and everyone else...please. Knock it off. 234 years ago we flipped the bird to pointy golden headpieces, and then had to kick them back out again in 1812.

That is all.

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God Hates Figs!

Monday, November 15, 2010

We here in Lansing, Michigan are so fortunate that we will soon be visited by the loony bin commonly known as The Westboro Baptist Church! On November 18, they plan to visit East Lansing High School. From their lovely, completely rational website God Hates Fags:

East Lansing High School in East Lansing, MI November 18, 2010 2:50 PM - 3:20 PM
WBC to picket the worthless brats who attend East Lansing High School, as well as their teachers and parents who have taught them from the cradle that God is a liar. You reprobates will hear some truth for the first time in your lives, to wit: God does NOT love everyone and it IS NOT okay to be gay or to fornicate with anyone or thing you please. Instead, you are to flee youthful lusts that war against your soul and seek to live sober, righteous and godly while on this earth. Now that you are old enough to read for yourselves, check this out:

Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul (1 Pet. 2:11); Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22).

Your parents, teachers, preachers and leaders - including Anti-Christ Beast Obama - lied to you because they hate you and they hope to justify their own sins by refusing to teach you what God requires of you. Well, WBC will teach you; here it is from King Solomon, the wisest man who EVER lived:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ec. 12:13.)

How blessedly simple. Now, just DO IT -- TODAY! This nation's destruction is imminent!!
I see that the Westboro goons also protested yet another soldier's funeral in McAlester, OK. From the article in Tulsa World:
Members of a Kansas church who protest at military funerals may have found themselves in the wrong town Saturday.

Shortly after finishing their protest at the funeral of Army Sgt. Jason James McCluskey of McAlester, a half-dozen protesters from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., headed to their minivan, only to discover that its front and rear passenger-side tires had been slashed.

To make matters worse, as their minivan slowly hobbled away on two flat tires, with a McAlester police car following behind, the protesters were unable to find anyone in town who would repair their vehicle, according to police.
click on the photo...it's large enough to read the text...classic!
I personally haven't decided if I will go to East Lansing High and counter-protest. I'm caught in that weird zone where one part of me really wants to send them a message and join a rally against their stupidity and the pther part of me wants to turn the other cheek, ignore them, and hope that some day they go away because everyone ignores them.

**UPDATE**

From the Facebook Status of a friend of mine: A coalition of community organizations, clergy, and concerned citizens will be holding a counter-protest to the WBC this Thursday from 2pm-4pm in the parking lot of the All Saints Church. Please don't give these hateful outsiders what they want by confroting them at ELHS. Instead either ignore them entirely or join us at All Saints to send a message that East Lansing is a community that celebrates diversity and welcomes all who would make our city their home.

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How I Spent Veterans Day

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tomorrow, the Smitty clan heads to Chicago!

We leave in the morning after breakfast. We plan on the Mrs Furious-style locate-golden-arches-with-playlands for lunch and to let the kids blow-off some steam, then it's off to our hotel.

Mrs. Smitty has some close friends (kids and all, of course) who live South of Chicago, and our hotel is not far from either, so Thursday night looks like pizza party night! Big fun.

Friday starts with a visit to Shedd Aquarium. Though all three boys have been there before, the Wonder Twins were too little to remember! But Smitty Jr remembers it fondly. All the kids are geeked about seeing all the fish, and Jr has informed his brothers, to their delight, that there are sharks.

If Shedd goes well and the kids still have some energy, we'll head back to the hotel, rest, and visit The Kohl Children's Museum. It's a hands-on science/learning museum full of the stuff the Boys like to do: dig, poke, prod, etc.

Saturday we head to the Chicago Field Museum to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Sue, the T Rex bones. Apparently, there are a lot of dinosaur exhibits built up around it in celebration of the 10th, and if there are 2 things the Smitty Boys enjoy, it's parties and dinosaurs.

We head back to Lansing Saturday evening, and surely handle 3 grumpy boys on Sunday, tired and over-stimulated from 2 days of sheer joy, surrounded by the stuff they love: Sharks, dinosaurs, and parties.

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Soup Sunday

Monday, November 08, 2010

Winter looms in Michigan. Most of the trees have lost their leaves, either due to early freezes or from the few mild hurricanes that have swept through the mitten state. Frost covers the grass every morning. My kids bitch about how cold it is, yet still refuse to put on slightly warmer jackets.

Mrs. Smitty and I decided, then, that the way to warm our hearts on these increasingly-colder days is to establish a day to look forward to; Soup Sunday! What warms the heart better than a hot bowl of soup and some crusty bread?

That's easy: soup cooked with beer.

Yesterday's installment of Soup Sunday was Cheddar Cheese and Ale soup. The fantastic thing about this recipe is that the flavor changes given what type of cheddar you choose to use and what type of beer you choose to cook it with. It's cheese, potatoes, and beer. Pretty Midwest if you ask me.

This recipe is so basic it's shameful. And the total time, prep included, is about 45 minutes.

4 Tb butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large baking potato, peeled & chopped
1/2 Cup flour
3 Cups chicken broth
3 Cups grated sharp cheddar, whatever kind you like (or multiple kinds)
2 Cups beer (I used Mackinac Pale Ale from MBC)
1 Cup coarsely chopped tart apple

Melt the butter in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Add the onion and potato, and cook it until it's just slightly tender (about 10-12 minutes by my clock). Slowly add the flour, stirring it well to cover all the veggies, and then cook that roux for just a few minutes more. Slowly stir in the chicken broth, and cook it until the soup thickens. Add the cheese a bit at a time and cook until it's all melted. Add the beer, and cook it until it steams. From there, simmer it until you feel like it's ready to eat. Season it with salt and pepper, serve it up and top it off with the chopped apples.

That simple. Plus: it has beer in it. Give it a try, and try different beers and cheeses. Using the hoppy MBC Pale, the soup took on a slightly bitter quality. Maybe next time I'll try a Scottish Ale or a Barleywine...

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Every Vote Counts

Friday, November 05, 2010

On Tuesday:

  • 300,000 Democrats stayed home, compared to the 2006 Gubernatorial election
  • 340,000 Independents stayed home, compared to the 2006 Gubernatorial election
  • there were only 72,300 more Republican votes this election than 2006.
In 2006, just like this year, the Governor, AG, Secretary of State, State Senate, State House, Congress, Supreme Court...all were up for election.  Granholm, unpopular, was facing Dick DeVos and his gobs of money.

300,000 Democratic votes, Indies notwithstanding (53% of whom were trending Democratic just 2 weeks out from the election), means Jocelyn Benson beats Ruth Johnson by 100,000 for Secretary of State.  It means David Leyton beats Bill Schuette for AG by 19,000.  It probably means Dems don't lose 9 incumbents in the State House, and win more than 2 of 13 "battleground" races.

It means Jennifer Haase, who led by double-digits less than a week before the election, doesn't lose her seat to a 23 year old waitress in a greasy spoon who still lives at home with her parents.

But Dem turnout was so poor - 15% in Detroit - that despite being up in the polls, the Jennifer Haases of the state lose.

Every vote counts.  I know loyal ATK readers vote.  But if any...any of your friends and colleagues bitch about the results, show them this blog post. If they, too, didn't vote and would have voted Dem, print a copy of this blog post and make them eat it. All of it. With no gravy or ketchup.

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Slaughterhouse 2010, Michigan Edition

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Quite a night in Michigan politics. This is just a quick update; more detail forthcoming in the comments when I have time.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans took the Governor/Lt Governor (welcome Governor Rick Snyder and Brian Calley), The Secretary of State (Ruth Johnson) and the Attorney General (Bill Schuette).

Still somewhat unsurprisingly (but less so), the Republicans gained a super-majority in the State Senate. They have held that Chamber for a decade now, but Dems have controlled enough to be able to raise some procedural Hell when they needed to make a statement. But after last night, Republicans hold that chamber 26-12. The next Majority Leader in the State Senate is likely to be Senator Randy Richardville from Monroe. Actually a really good guy and a class-act. Little comfort for the Dems, though. No Democratic incumbents lost, but not that many were coming back anyway, what with 29 of the 38 seats being open due to term limits.

The surprise was that the Dems lost majority in the House. They started with 67 seats and last night the Republicans regained the House 63-47. That's nearly a 20-seat swing, folks. Equally shocking were the number of incumbents that lost: 9. 9 Democratic incumbents lost their seats, and Dems lost all but 2 open seats that were "in play." Jase Bolger, a Republican from Marshall (H/T to the home of Dark Horse Brewing Company!) is the next likely Speaker of the House. Of 13 "battleground" open seats (there were many more open seats, but many of those are safe...or were...), Dems won exactly 2 of them. 2.

Hell, Gary Peters, one of our Congressmen from Oakland County, barely won re-election against a guy who changed his name to "Rocky." Mark Schauer, a Dem with a mild manner, brains, and a decent policy mind, lost to the demon-spawn of Grandpa Simpson and Herman Munster. Gary McDowell, a Dem trying to replace long-serving Bart Stupak in the Democratic 1st District U.P. congressional seat, lost to a Tea Party candidate and birther.

In August, Michigan's Supreme Court was tipped 4-3 in favor of Dems when Granholm appointed Justice Alton Thomas Davis to replace outgoing "Republican" Justice Betty Weaver. Davis lost his chance at election last night, as voters returned incumbent Justice Bob Young and placed Mary Beth Kelly on the bench; it is highly unusual for a non-incumbent (Kelly) to beat an incumbent (Davis), but given how the votes went last night, and the fact that Kelly and Young ran together and even had their names together on yard signs, it's no big surprise.

At least we won't have to waste our time with a constitutional convention. That proposal get killed.

Now to pick up the pieces, figure out whose ass to kiss, and get busy!

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Fun With Gourds

Monday, November 01, 2010

So for Halloween this year, rather than just a standard pumpkin, I decided to do something a little more special. Sure, everyone in the world has done the barfing pumpkin. It's fun and appealing for sure.

But in the spirit of Calvin and Hobbes Snowmen, I decided to do Cannibal Pumpkin!


I am already thinking of ideas for next year.  Maybe a Jesus Pumpkin, with eyes skyward, mouth  pensively prayerful, with 12 little gourds surrounding it?

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The Square Of Taste

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Big, giant beers will always hold some sort of magic voodoo over me. I do, and always will, enjoy a well-crafted beer of nearly any style; Short's Bellaire Brown and even Michigan Brewing Company's Majestic Nut Brown are wonderful examples of a simple style done well...and enjoyed copiously. But there's this allure for me for these impossibly big beers. Perhaps it's my own predilection for larger-than-life? Plain bacon sucks; gimmie a bacon that smells and tastes like a camp fire. Folgers is crap; a Cafe' Americano is the lightest coffee I drink (and drink it I do...). While I appreciate subtlety and simplicity, it's bigness and boldness that really gets me going. I tolerate baseball and watch basketball, but love football and hockey. Subtle as a train wreck.


So when beer buddy Greg journeys to the far-off metropolis of Pittsburgh and returns with a beer from Terrapin Brewery's (Athens, GA) "Monster Beer Tour" series, I just can't help myself. He knows me so well.

This offering is Terrapin's Rye Squared Imperial Pale Ale. Add the word "Imperial" in front of your beer, and you've sold me; Imperial Anything holds the promise of ridiculously big flavors. I'm a sucker for marketing. Terrapin says "double the malt, double the hops, and double the flavor of the original Rye Pale Ale recipe." I'm verklempt.

Rye Squared pours a bright orange with an off-white, creamy head. The thick head leaves beautiful rings of lacing down my glass. Slightly hazy from the loads of hops that Terrapin drowned in this brew, the appearance of this beer alone is enough to convince me it's a beer I'll enjoy.

But I can't just look at a beer; that'd be a waste. I'll prolong my anticipation by taking-in the aroma first. Big huge citrus aromas hit me and remind me of my favorite West Coast IPA; all grapefruit, orange peel, orange blossom and tart apples greet my nose and promise me that I'm going to love this beer. And if evoking the memory of the best IPA I've ever had isn't enough, the huge malty sticky syrupy aroma behind the wall of Floridian fruits seals the deal for me. Gotta have some. Complimentary to the malty-sweet is just a hint of bread dough. But clearly on the nose, the hops win all my attention.

The taste doesn't disappoint. Hops and malt work in conjunction to bring me the beer I was hoping for: a sticky-sweet hop bomb. Big tangy citrus mixes with a northern Michigan pine forest to drive my tongue mad. Far from being all-hops, though, all of the sticky-sweetness of caramel and toffee are front-and-center, providing a great base for the huge hops to not overwhelm your tastebuds. I'll cast a few platitudes to breadiness and even some floral hops as well. Mild carbonation serves to cleanse the tongue between quaffs, helping enjoy this resiny, sticky beer without losing all sensation.

This Imperial Pale Ale bridges the gap between Pale Ales, Barley Wines and India Pale Ales of the highest order. It is truly a separate style from each of those three, deserving a class of its own to be sure. If you are a fan of giant Barley Wines or tangy West Coast IPAs, this is your beer. Surprisingly, though, it's not overwhelming. It's a do-able gateway to even bigger beers, even though it's a big beer in and of itself. And for this big beer enthusiast, Terrapin Rye Squared certainly kept me captive throughout the entire pint.

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Like a Voice from Beyond the Grave...

Ah christ, you people are too much.

Where has Rickey been? Whither the great one? Certainly, this nagging question has caused many sleepless nights for all of you. What could possibly be more fulfilling than impersonating a crazed former baseball player?

…Well, as you know, it is election season and let’s just say that those potential voters aren’t going to intimidate themselves.

In all seriousness, the big reason RwR is on hiatus is because Rickey’s work responsibilities have recently expanded and he now holds a position which could be jeopardized by gossipy coworkers who perchance stumble across his profane little blog. (Yes Smitty, you were spot on—Rickey is a Honduran hitman. The dental plan is shockingly good).

The good news? Nobody out there knows jack shit about THIS blog. So Rickey’s officially taking refuge here. For the immediate future, ATK shall be Rickey’s new roost. A brand new venue for all things political, alcohol, and fellatio related. In other words, a blank slate ripe for defecation (and mixed metaphors!). Prepare to reap the whirlwind, gentlemen.

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Lies, BS, and Campaign Ads

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I was driving my 7 year old to school the other day and she commented on an ad she saw on TV. Basically, she said she wouldn't vote for one of the candidates because she heard he wanted to get rid of social security and she didn't think that was fair. While I agreed that wasn't fair, I also pointed out that most claims in ads are not true, or at least only partially true.

This year is no exception. If you are unlucky enough to live in the Mid-Michigan Area, you probably have seen the ads for Mark Schauer and Tim Walberg. I would seriously consider not voting for either of them based on how bad those ads are. That being said, they are not all that unusual. We are often treted to negative ads where one candidate distorts the record and positions of their opponent. Fortunately, a voter has some fact checking resources and can see what is what with a minimal amount of effort.

This isn't always the case. In the last few weeks, I have started to see ads for the Michigan Supreme Court. They started off with the typical "tough on crime" and "fair and just" type. Michigan, unfortunately, has s system where we elect the Supreme Court for a fixed term. The Court gets little coverage and I would guess that most people couldn't name a single Justice. Most people that are running just try and get their name out and hope that voters will remember come election time. Another interesting aspect of our state is that Justices are non-partisan. While this seems like a good idea, both parties still claim their candidates and run ads. In addition, a variety of other advocacy groups run ads.

These ads are especially annoying because they rely on people's ignorance of how the State Supreme Court works and present an overly simplistic view. They will take a case where a Justice may have supported the free speech rights of some obnoxious bigot and say that it shows the Justice supports the bigot. This is simply not true and is grossly unfair.

There is an ad that is being run against candidate Bob Young that was paid for by several environmental groups. I couldn't find that ad, but found a very similar one that was put out by the Michigan Democratic Party. Here it is:



Holy Shit! Bob Young would let polluters off the hook. That isn't good and voters certainly deserve to know if he would, or did, do this. The TV ad focuses mostly on the claim that Young would prevent citizens from being able to sue a company that perpetrated some major BP-style disaster. In support of this, they list a case at the bottom of the screen in tiny print, MCWC v. Nestle, 479 Mich 280 (2007). I was skeptical and wondered if this case could show that Young was as bad as the ad says.

The above mentioned case deals with an environmental group that sued Nestle to enjoin them from operating a bottled water plant in Michigan. I remember when this was going on and it was controversial. The rather dull 36 page case boils down to a question of standing. Young basically said that in regards to one of the lakes, the plaintiffs did not have standing and could not proceed. Standing is legal principal that goes back hundreds of years and was the topic of many of the first cases heard by the US Supreme Court. It has been well litigated and is very well established. In order to have standing, a plaintiff must establish 3 things:

1. Injury: The plaintiff must have suffered or imminently will suffer injury—an invasion of a legally protected interest that is concrete and particularized. The injury must be actual or imminent, distinct and palpable, not abstract. This injury could be economic as well as non-economic.

2. Causation: There must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, so that the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and not the result of the independent action of some third party who is not before the court.

3. Redressability: It must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that a favorable court decision will redress the injury.

Young said that the plaintiff did not satisfy the first requirement. The facts showed that none of the plaintiffs lived on or near the lake in question, so that they could not have suffered any injury. What the group should have done was add a plaintiff that lived on that lake. There is a ton of case law that supports Young's conclusion and it is not an area of law that is all that novel. In other words, Young most likely made the right decision that was supported by past cases, both at the state and federal level.

Young may very well be a tool of corporations, but this ad is deceptive and misleading. I have a hard time making the leap from that decision to say that he would allow polluters to have a free ride. I should note that I am in no way endorsing Bob Young, nor do I want to just pick on the people that oppose him. I would like to point out that if you are going to vote for a Supreme Court Justice, you should be basing your decision on logic and reason, not BS conjecture.

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Unhinged

Sure, it was a stupid political stunt, and this is a stupid season, but stomping on her head? Bet that took a real man to do this, dumb-fuck hick.

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Can't Wait to Smell the Sawdust.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

This has nothing to do with beer or politics, but we here at ATK sometimes delve into hobbies and home improvement, and I cannot help but giggle like a school girl at my latest purchase - I new big-ass table saw capable of cutting darn near anything I can throw at it.

Don't let the store brand fool you, this is the same saw sold by several other brands, but Craftsman sells it for hundreds less.  I have rediscovered Sears and have been eyeballing this saw for a few years.  It went on sale this week, so I ordered one up.

Anyone want to help me get it to my basement?  It will arrive in pieces, but in total weighs close to 500 lbs, so takes two guys to move it.  I pay in beer - good beer.

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Bigot Fired From NPR

Thursday, October 21, 2010

First, Juan Williams was fired from NPR yesterday after comments he made regarding Muslims on FOX with Bill Fucking O'Reilly.

The comment:

Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”

Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.

He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” [emphasis added]
I love how he starts with "some of my best friends are Muslim." Always a sign of a bigoted comment to follow.

And I agree with what Sullivan says about it:
No, Juan, what you just described is the working definition of bigotry.

What if someone said that they saw a black man walking down the street in classic thug get-up. Would a white person be a bigot of he assumed he was going to mug him?
As Sully points out, the 9-11 hijackers and the Christmas Day Undiebomber were dressed like us...good ol' secular westerners. The Ft. Hood shooter was in a fucking U.S. Military uniform, as a member of the U.S. Military!

Juan got fired either because he is a bigot, or because he is a non-bigot so afraid of his bigot-but-well-paying tv show hosts that he said a bigoted thing to satiate them. Either way, NPR was right to let his ass go.

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Rickey? Helloooo?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Once again, I have to bring out the milk carton.

As fans might have noticed, “Riding with Ricky” has once again gone missing.  It has been since August since we last we saw a post over at RwR.

Again, visitors to the site are now greeted by a page stating that it has gone private.

The last time this happend, Rickey was in the process of buying a house, so to avoid the risk of being redlined out of his chosen neighborhood, he went private.

Rickey may be up to no-good again.  Maybe he is interviewing for a job?  Maybe he needed to move again?  Maybe the in-laws discovered his blog?

Your guess in the comments.

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Just Hafta Say

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Political rhetoric from racist homophobes being given legitimacy on the national stage in part results in suicides the likes we have heard a rash about lately. Sure, 24-hour news networks are getting around to publishing what has probably always been happening, but a part of me feels, unscientifically, that the sharp increase in publicized anti-gay rhetoric on much-watched television and blogs has something to do with an acceptance and use of especially demeaning anti-gay sentiment.

We need, instead, more of this:

And this.

And a lot less of this shit.

It's not that there were less gay people when I went to school in the late 80s/early 90s. It's that it wasn't a big deal in my school. Assholes were dealt with. Gay and straight friends stood-up to the handful of assholes.

I, for one, will teach my kids that love and compassion trump anger-fueled dogma and hideous stereotypes any day.

This is nice to see.

Despite what I believe about belief, it is an even higher form of silliness to suggest to someone who wants to believe that they can't because they don't fit the right mold of a believer. Stupidity.

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Nothing To Lose Your Head Over

Thursday, October 07, 2010

My name is Smitty, and I am a hop-head.

Took a while to get there. Maybe some day I'll document my journey from Bud and Icehouse to Labatt and Molson to the world of local breweries. Even after discovery of the unlimited tastes of "craft" beer, it took a while to embrace hops; my first foray into IPAs left me whining that the beer I tried tasted like a tin can. Funny: it's a beer I regularly enjoy now.

Once I figured hops out, though, it was all over from there. No wonder beer's forefathers eventually abandoned other bittering agents in favor of the almighty hop.

And so here I am today, blogging before you as a hop-head. And before me is a bottle of Terrapin Brewery's Hopsecutioner IPA.

Ooh, tantalizing! Hopsecutioner. Will hop-heads, erm, lose their heads with Hopsecutioner? Will its sharply-honed hops leave me senseless?

Hopsecutioner turned my pint glass a beautiful copper, slightly hazy, with a pure white, cloud-fluffy head. True to its name, this beer loses its foamy head quite quickly. Thick rivulets of lacing clung tenaciously to the pint glass as the essence of the beer drained quickly away.

Bready, biscuity malts merge with sweet apricots on the nose like marmalade on biscuits. Right behind this tea-time crumpet comes some complex - but still somehow subtle - aromas: damp cedar wood, pineappe-citrus. Juicy aroma if aromas could be juicy. Beautiful aromas, to be sure, but out of balance with what I 'd expect from an IPA. Sweet marmalade biscuits shouldn't be the first thing I smell in beers known for the hopiness.

The taste delivers what the aroma promises: bread dough and sugary-sweet malts compliment soft citrus fruits like pineapples and red grapefruit. Delicious, earthy hops mesh exquisitely chewy, juicy caramel. Hopsecutioner is well-crafted...but is off from an IPA. It is a hoppy beer, no doubt, but the hops don't dominate. Nor do they contribute as a major player. They're a partner in a beer where I expect them to be everything.

For over 7% ABV, I don't get that alcohol burn. It has a lovely, chewy, medium body, and finishes slightly dry and just a tad resinous from the hops. Maybe Hopsecutioner would be a great beer for someone who wants to try an IPA but is skeptical of everything they've heard about hops. The delicacy of the hops in this beer would shine if they weren't out-competed by the big malts also characteristic of an IPA. I do like this beer and will have no issue killing-off the rest of the 6-er; its subtlety makes it very sessionable and quaffing one after another is definitely on my agemda. But I can't say I'm going to lose my head over this beer.

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Religious Knowledge - Take the Test.

As has been reported over the last week, a study by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life found:

Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.
I found this concept facinating and took the test.  I got 13 out of 15.  I am such a heathen.


Take the test yourself here and let us know how you did.

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Snyder v. Phelps

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

As many of you probably know, the Phelps case is set for oral argument today at 10 a.m. Scotusblog has an excellent in-depth analysis of issues and arguments by both sides. Basically, what is at stake is whether funerals will receive some level of heightened protection from protests or that there is a "funeral exception."

Not surprisingly, I am not a fan of Phelps and I finds his beliefs indefensible and outrageous. I wish the 'free speech' side had a more likable and sympathetic advocate, but that is not the case. While I find Snyder's arguments to be decent and compelling, I am not sure that I want to carve out an exception for funerals and wonder if the better approach would be to go after the Phelps cult in a different manner. What do you think?

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Why run away from health care?

Monday, October 04, 2010

I have repeatedly said that the components of the health care reform bill are more popular than the rhetoric of the whole. 

For decades Democrats have run successfully in support of many of the components of the health care bill.  So, why is it any different now that they can claim success?  I think Democrats ignore the issue at their own peril and essentially wave the white flag.  E.J. Dionne, agrees and points out that some Democrats are now running on the components of health care, many of which just kicked in.  I predict those who don't hide from their vote will be the most successful in November and those who do will be tossed out.

We will see.

ALSO:  FiveThirtyEight's analysis of this issue is here.

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Still Crazy After All These Years

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Assistant Attorney General in Michigan, if you remember from some time back, is waging war against U of M's student body president, who is openly gay.

Remember, too, that Michigan's current Attorney General, Mike Cox, despite the AG's very own entire web page devoted to cyber safety, refused to fire this Assistant or even to force him to rescind his hate-filled blog.

The blog? Chris Armstrong Watch (google it...I ain't linking it...).

Again, the AG's web site on Cyber Safety here.

Let's hear what the Assistant AG has to say: "I have no problem with the fact that Chris is a homosexual. I have a problem with the fact that he's advancing a radical homosexual agenda." [CNN.com]

Anderson Cooper, who is NOT GAY, took him to task yesterday. Video here. Read the whole article; it's worth it.

But if you're as lazy as me, here's the most unintentionally hilarious paragraph I have seen this week:

Among other things, Shirvell has published blog posts that accuse Armstrong of going back on a campaign promise he made to minority students; engaging in "flagrant sexual promiscuity" with another male member of the student government; sexually seducing and influencing "a previously conservative [male] student" so much so that the student, according to Shirvell, "morphed into a proponent of the radical homosexual agenda;" hosting a gay orgy in his dorm room in October 2009; and trying to recruit incoming first year students "to join the homosexual 'lifestyle.'"
No hate speech there.

And what does Mike Cox, our current AG, who has a Cyber Bullying Task Force, say about this?
"Mr. Shirvell's personal opinions are his and his alone and do not reflect the views of the Michigan Department of Attorney General," Cox said in the written statement provided by his office to CNN's "AC 360" Tuesday night. "But his immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear."

Shirvell said he works on the blog during his off-hours.
Powerful rebuttal.

Mike Cox, protecting our youth from Cyber Attacks. Unless they are Teh Gay. Then...just not during work hours.

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Let Them Eat Cake

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bill Maher, though an occasional asshole, is spot-on in his criticism of greedy bastards. Plus, I love how he does snark; it's a passing subtle comment more than the dripping hate that clouds my own brand.

At any rate, here's what Bill has to say about people who whine about a 3% tax increase:

New Rule: The next rich person who publicly complains about being vilified by the Obama administration must be publicly vilified by the Obama administration. It's so hard for one person to tell another person what constitutes being "rich", or what tax rate is "too much." But I've done some math that indicates that, considering the hole this country is in, if you are earning more than a million dollars a year and are complaining about a 3.6% tax increase, then you are by definition a greedy asshole.

And let's be clear: that's 3.6% only on income above 250 grand -- your first 250, that's still on the house. Now, this week we got some horrible news: that one in seven Americans are now living below the poverty line. But I want to point you to an American who is truly suffering: Ben Stein. You know Ben Stein, the guy who got rich because when he talks it sounds so boring it's actually funny. He had a game show on Comedy Central, does eye drop commercials, doesn't believe in evolution? Yeah, that asshole. I kid Ben -- so, the other day Ben wrote an article about his struggle. His struggle as a wealthy person facing the prospect of a slightly higher marginal tax rate. Specifically, Ben said that when he was finished paying taxes and his agents, he was left with only 35 cents for every dollar he earned. Which is shocking, Ben Stein has an agent? I didn't know Broadway Danny Rose was still working.

Cake?  Yeah...not so much...
Ben whines in his article about how he's worked for every dollar he has -- if by work you mean saying the word "Bueller" in a movie 25 years ago. Which doesn't bother me in the slightest, it's just that at a time when people in America are desperate and you're raking in the bucks promoting some sleazy Free Credit Score dot-com... maybe you shouldn't be asking us for sympathy. Instead, you should be down on your knees thanking God and/or Ronald Reagan that you were lucky enough to be born in a country where a useless schmuck who contributes absolutely nothing to society can somehow manage to find himself in the top marginal tax bracket.

And you're welcome to come on the show anytime.

Now I can hear you out there saying, "Come on Bill, don't be so hard on Ben Stein, he does a lot of voiceover work, and that's hard work." Ok, it's true, Ben is hardly the only rich person these days crying like a baby who's fallen off his bouncy seat. Last week Mayor Bloomberg of New York complained that all his wealthy friends are very upset with mean ol' President Poopy-Pants: He said they all say the same thing: "I knew I was going to have to pay more taxes. But I didn't expect to be vilified." Poor billionaires -- they just can't catch a break.

First off, far from being vilified, we bailed you out -- you mean we were supposed to give you all that money and kiss your ass, too? That's Hollywood you're thinking of. FDR, he knew how to vilify; this guy, not so much. And second, you should have been vilified -- because you're the vill-ains! I'm sure a lot of you are very nice people. And I'm sure a lot of you are jerks. In other words, you're people. But you are the villains. Who do you think outsourced all the jobs, destroyed the unions, and replaced workers with desperate immigrants and teenagers in China. Joe the Plumber?

And right now, while we run trillion dollar deficits, Republicans are holding America hostage to the cause of preserving the Bush tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest 1% of people, many of them dead. They say that we need to keep taxes on the rich low because they're the job creators. They're not. They're much more likely to save money through mergers and outsourcing and cheap immigrant labor, and pass the unemployment along to you.

Americans think rich people must be brilliant; no -- just ruthless. Meg Whitman is running for Governor out here, and her claim to fame is, she started e-Bay. Yes, Meg tapped into the Zeitgeist, the zeitgeist being the desperate need of millions of Americans to scrape a few dollars together by selling the useless crap in their garage. What is e-Bay but a big cyber lawn sale that you can visit without putting your clothes on?

Another of my favorites, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said, "I don't know where they're going to get all this money, because we're running out of rich people in this country." Actually, we have more billionaires here in the U.S. than all the other countries in the top ten combined, and their wealth grew 27% in the last year. Did yours? Truth is, there are only two things that the United States is not running out of: Rich people and bullshit. Here's the truth: When you raise taxes slightly on the wealthy, it obviously doesn't destroy the economy -- we know this, because we just did it -- remember the '90's? It wasn't that long ago. You were probably listening to grunge music, or dabbling in witchcraft. Clinton moved the top marginal rate from 36 to 39% -- and far from tanking, the economy did so well he had time to get his dick washed.

Even 39% isn't high by historical standards. Under Eisenhower, the top tax rate was 91%. Under Nixon, it was 70%. Obama just wants to kick it back to 39 -- just three more points for the very rich. Not back to 91, or 70. Three points. And they go insane. Steve Forbes said that Obama, quote "believes from his inner core that people... above a certain income have more than they should have and that many probably have gotten it from ill-gotten ways." Which they have. Steve Forbes, of course, came by his fortune honestly: he inherited it from his gay egg-collecting, Elizabeth Taylor fag-hagging father, who inherited it from his father. Of course then they moan about the inheritance tax, how the government took 55% percent when Daddy died -- which means you still got 45% for doing nothing more than starting out life as your father's pecker-snot.

We don't hate rich people, but have a little humility about how you got it and stop complaining. Maybe the worst whiner of all: Stephen Schwarzman, #69 on Forbes' list of richest Americans, compared Obama's tax hike to "when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939." Wow. If Obama were Hitler, Mr. Schwarzman, I think your tax rate would be the least of your worries.
Now I'm fired up. Where'd I put that guillotine...

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The Complication of Cows

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cows.

Uncomplicated. Simple life. Stand around, moo at one another, eat what's put in front of you, poop where you want.

What you see is what you get with a cow. They don't come in a massive variety of colors and shades. They are generally pretty docile. They don't appear to be especially brilliant.

And let's not forget: they're damn tasty.

I can think of no better way to describe New Glarus Brewing Company's Spotted Cow Cream Ale. Uncomplicated, simple, but still damn tasty. Here's what I mean:

Spotted Cow, like all cream ales, pours gold with a hint of copper. Make no bones...this beer just looks like beer, no more, no less. What you see is what you get. Moo.

Though mostly clear, there is a slight haze with a load of suspended particulate; Spotted Cow is a cask-aged ale so what you're seeing is yeast. The thin but fluffy eggshell-white head left rings of fine lacing down the glass, marking each quaff's progress down the pint.

This cow is sugary or corn-syrupy sweet. It has that hint of grassy, earthy aroma that goes hand-in-hand with a malty, grainy beer. But that's a cream ale. It's got grainy malts. It smells like grainy malt. What you smell is what you get. There is a scant clover-field floral aroma from the sparing use of hops. Grains? Clover? Is there a theme here perhaps?

That the flavor profile doesn't open-up new and exciting experiences is neither a surprise nor a fault. Grains and sweet syrupy malt dominate the taste. Spotted Cow, being cask aged, is slighty yeasty in that there is just a hint of sourness. It's not as sour as a Belgian; this is more of a hint that balances the grainy sweetness, giving you earthy-sweetness with a hint of sour to match. The reflective aftertaste is almost orange-zest. It's not that these "hints" and "almosts" are missed opportunities in a beer that could otherwise be great. For a cream ale, Spotted Cow is great. It's just...simple.

As its style, Spotted Cow's medium body and lower carbonation suggests a creamy feel, making it just that much more drinkable.

Here's the bottom line:

Cream Ales tend to be one-dimensional. If I had a one-dimensional stout or IPA, I would be gravely disappointed. But like a Kolsch, a Cream Ale's lack of adventure is exactly what you want when you want a beer for beer's sake. What gives a Cream Ale the edge over BudandMiller is the creamy texture and the fact that "malt" and "hops" actually have a presence in the beer as opposed to Honorable Mention on the label. In the realm of Cream Ales, Spotted Cow stands out as that one step creamier, one step maltier, one-step more complicated than the average. It's one of those "session beers" that you find goes down way too easy, one after another.

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Just 'Cause I Wanna Celebrate

Monday, September 20, 2010

My season tickets are on the opposite side of the end zone from the end Tight End Charlie Gantt ran to, but I saw it clear as day. The stadium erupted into pandemonium. To say the crowd was deafening is an understatement.

One for the memories, folks. I left my vocal chords somewhere in Section 29, row 4.

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Conversations On Race

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A lot of folks are doing a great job of using humor to discuss race. This particular video, while a little more raw, still makes a point; latent, subtle racism hurts every bit as much as plain ol' Southern-style racist tyrades.

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Bullshit

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dear Commisar Goodell:

Calvin Johnson caught that ball. Your refs are idiots. You have been a failure. You will deserve the strike you'll get next year. Enjoy your stock options while they last.

Please have the refs explain this call, in detail.
Rest assured that all 7 remaining Lions fans will obsessively watch every single game for what will surely be hundreds of examples of this same touchdown being scored over and over again all season, without being called back.

Of course, you won't even address this hometown reffing. You fail.

Eat a Bucket of Dicks,

Lions Fans

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Slacker Beer

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Every now and then, I'll have a beer that inspires me to mediocrity; a beer so plain and underwhelming that I would choose to sit squarely in my seat and stare at my Blackberry. A beer that is unnoticed in the crowd. A beer I could fish out of a cooler at a tailgate (tis the season, after all...) and drink, repeatedly, without ever knowing its name (take that comment where you will).

That beer, over in the corner at the party reading a magazine, is Berghoff Prairie Lager, from Minhas Craft Brewery in Monroe, Wisconsin.

Opening the bottle and starting the pour, one knows right away what this beer is: another take on a standard German or Czech Pilsner. Think Pilsner Urqell, but with less personality and a passion for stamp collecting.

Amber waves of grain aptly describe Prairie Lager's color as I pour it into my pint glass. But make no mistake, it's not the romanticized vision. It's the one you see when you've driven through such a prairie for 7 hours on a road trip. Golden sunny yellow, bright and crystal clear, only mean something at the beginning of your trip. After a time, it's just another sunny prairie.

Sweet grains meet a slight skunky aroma from the use of noble hops, each in turn a slight nod to the splendor of the style of beer that re-created beer in Europe. It's a solid pils in its aromas, but more of a shadow than the real deal; a return of an echo rather than the source.

Noble hops, usually the center of attention of a great pils, are the New Kid at a prom. Grainy, husky malts and corn have an industrial feel; I don't want to paint an unappetizing picture, but the grains here have as much personality as mass-produced "all-grain" sandwich bread. Sweet malts sneak in the back door towards the end.

As a lawnmower or tailgate beer, this lager is fine; it still has flavor above and beyond what Bud and Miller produce every day. But for the style, this light-bodied, highly-carbonated lager is the kid picked last every time for the team. I am unsure of this even being a gateway beer" to hook non-craft drinkers into craft beer, because even many of them will drink a better pils than this if pushed.

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Another Good Work

The "Military Religious Freedom Foundation" has announced that they will buy one copy of the Qur'an for every one burned on the Saturday.  The group, plans to send the copies to the military, to be donated to the Afghan National Army by U.S. soldiers.

The Foundation is also calling for a "buy a Qur'an Day" for September 11.

UPDATE:
As it turns out the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is one sweet organization.  It is also run by one real badass.  The guy comes from a three-generation military family.  He was a boxer, JAG officer and Reagan administration lawyer.  He is no pinko-liberal. Read more about him here

Here is a quote from him:

"'Wherever I see unconstitutional religious predators in the U.S. military, of any stripe, I don't care if I live or die. Someone's gonna get a beating and we're going to do it," he says. 'The two ways to administer the beating is to go into the media or into court,' he explains..." 

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Christians Who Aren't Afraid

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Just when I am about to swear off all Christians, even the liberal ones, I hear about this event.

All Saints Episcopal Church of East Lansing, Michigan will be holding an open reading from the Qur'an in their sanctuary on Saturday. They have invited members of a local Islamic Center to attend.

This might actually get me to church.

For those in the area who are interested:

All Saints Episcopal Church
800 Abbot Road, East Lansing, MI
7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, September 11

By the way:

For those that compare the burning of the Qur'an to the building of the Islamic Center in New York City, (both protected by the first amendment) I should remind you that the building of the Islamic Center was planned to bring people of multiple religions together, but burning the Qur'an is being done out of hate.

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Pure Michigan: U of M Football



I just couldn't resist posting this. Despite being an MSU grad, I have a great deal of respect for Michigan and will cheer for them against any school but mine. That being said, I have gotten a great deal of flak over the years from Michigan fans that never went to Michigan...or liven in Ann Arbor...or worked there...or had a relative that went there.

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No Hate

Finally, the faith community speaks-out against hate committed in the name of religion:

But then this asshole and his brain-washed congregation is sticking to their guns, despite warnings from even General Patreus that they ought not do this

Gen. David Petraeus, the commander in Afghanistan, said the burning of Islam's holy books "could cause significant problems" for American troops overseas.

"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan," Petraeus said in a statement issued Monday.

With about 120,000 U.S. and NATO-led troops still battling al Qaeda and its allies in the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban movement, Petraeus warned that burning Qurans "is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems -- not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."

Petraeus said he was concerned by the political repercussions of the church's plan.

"Even the rumor that it might take place has sparked demonstrations such as the one that took place in Kabul yesterday," he said. "Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult."

He said extremists would use images of burning Qurans to inflame public opinion and incite violence.

"And this would, again, put our troopers and civilians in jeopardy and undermine our efforts to accomplish the critical mission here in Afghanistan," he said.

Plain and simple, this pastor is drunk with the allure of the limelight. He loves the publicity and the only reason he is still pushing his agenda of hate is because it is making him famous. He has no leg to stand-on. He is alone in this endeavor. But what he has is a constant media spotlight and his name in bold headlines across the world. Selfish fame.

You shall have no other gods before me??

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My Labor Roots

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

This is a little late for labor day, but what the hell.

My family has not been a member of union in three generations, not counting my kids, yet we remain pro-organized labor. What made my family pro-union and made us Democrats? My pro-labor heritage goes back to both my grandfathers.

A couple stories…

Sometime around the 1920’s my grandfather (He is Bob Sr. I am Bob III) moved from the thumb of Michigan down to Detroit with his brother. The plan was that Bob Sr. would work and put his brother through college and then his brother would reciprocate. Bob Sr. and his brother were Republicans, as were most of the people from the thumb, along with my family who still lives there.

My grandfather took a job on an assembly line at Dodge Brothers automotive when Dodge was a stand-alone company, and not yet unionized. Bob Sr. assembled some sort of complex part and was paid by the piece, instead of by the hour as is currently the norm. He must have been a pretty inventive guy, because he invented a tool that assisted his assembly of this part. Due to his tool, his output doubled and so did his pay. He started making real good money.

Before long Dodge Brothers management came through and handled out copies of my Grandfather’s tool to all the workers.  With output doubled, Dodge Brothers then cut the worker’s pay in half.

The story goes that Bob Sr. walked out that day.  He walked out a union man and waked out a pro-union Democrat. He later organized milk deliverymen in Detroit and was known to carry a small pro-union sign with a very thick sign post.

My maternal grandfather’s (Dillard) story is a little shorter. He was always a Republican, for no good reason. He was also a West Virginia coal miner, until he moved to Detroit before my mother was born. He later died of emphysema. His hero was John L. Lewis and supported the organization of coal miners.

Some say that those days are past and that labor laws now protect workers. Some say organized labor's days are over. Some even blame our economic woes on them.

I say unions are needed more, and needed the world over. The working person needs a voice more than ever to stand up against multinational corporations, right-wing media and corporatist economic polices espoused by politicians of both parties. When the people of all nations are free to unionize, only then will markets, and the workers of the world, be truly free.

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Best Anniversary Ever

Thursday, September 02, 2010

How awesome would life be if a 16-day festival was held in honor of your marriage, and subsequently your anniversary, creating a tradition that has lasted now for 200 years?

Thanks to the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in 1810, we have a 2-week, 6-million person beer fest of most epic proportions. Now, I had a really fun wedding to a wonderful beer-loving, hockey-watching football fan named Mrs. Smitty. But our anniversary this year? I think we went out for dinner together or something. I can tell you this much: it wasn't celebrated along with 6 million drunks from across the world. Just two.

Another fine tradition of Oktoberfest, as if a beer tent that looks like the picture below isn't enough, is that a special beer was created just for the celebration, named, aptly, Oktoberfest! This Marzen-style beer, so named because it was brewed in March (Marzen), was stored throughout the summer (lagered), and busted-out in late summer. What remains is consumed at Oktoberfest!

A solid Oktoberfest is a beer I like to return to every September or so. It's one of my football beers. Knowing me so well, beer-buddy Greg, back from adventures in far-ranging Pittsburg, brought back a lovely Oktoberfest from Capital Brewery in Middleton, Wisconsin. The name, simply, is Fest.

Comfort poured forth from the bottle; bright, sunny copper with the slight haze you find on September evenings when the air cools a bit from the sweltering August heat. A puffy, bubbling cloud of eggshell-white formed on the top of the beer, bursting with aroma, yet dissipating as if in an early-Fall wind. Perfect weather for my own little festival.

Full, traditionally Bavarian beer aromas rise from the beer, carrying memories of a thousand brewmeisters. Nutty, roasted grains mingle with that most magical German Noble hop; sweet earth meets pungent earth yielding that characteristic Teutonic beer aroma famous the world over. Malty caramel provides a sweetener, ending on a gentle nutty aroma.

This beer is what I really like in an Oktoberfest. Gorgeous grains up front, husky, are balanced by Noble hops behind. Melt-in-your-mouth caramel is doesn't compete with that earthy, spicy blend of Hallertauer and Saaz hops; rather, they compliment one another. The result is a fine example of what our Germanic neighbors love to quaff about this time every year.

The beer has a few small flaws; it's just a tad watery and thin, and the malt, while sweet, is monotone. But this beer is more than drinkable; it'll be a regular addition to my beer fridge every Fall and at half the price of Spaten (which is imported all the way from the Fatherland), I am willing to deal with its minor flaws. I daresay they go unnoticed unless you look for them anyway. Fest differs from Sammy A's Oktoberfest, which is syrupy in its sweetness. This is much more of a throwback to the proud heritage of a crown prince's wedding anniversary.

Clean. Crisp. And best of all, traditional flavor.

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Developing Situation

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

An armed man has taken hostages at The Discovery Channel's HQ in Silver Spring, MD.

CNN.com is providing updates as the situation unfolds.

A friend of mine works media in the DC area. He provided this pic of the gunman (note: he said it could be one of the plain-clothes detectives...).

And apparently these are his demands. He apparently wants us to stop having kids, and sees having children as polluting the planet. Fortunately, given that this guy really really dislikes babies, CNN reports: [Updated at 2:19 p.m.] The Discovery Channel day care has been evacuated to a nearby area, according to CNN affiliate WJLA. The day care had about 100 kids, WJLA reported.

Environmentalist gone nuts? And there seem to be conflicting reports about evacuations or not...

UPDATE

The police shot and killed him at a little before 5:00. They moved-in on him when he drew a weapon and pointed it at a hostage.

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To Life!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Readers of Around the Keg, it has happened. Our entire reason for being...everything we work so hard for here, with the reviews and links to beer and so forth; it is all at long last justified. Our toil. Our tears. The ridicule we take. It's all been worth it.

Why Do Heavy Drinkers Outlive Nondrinkers?

Loyal readers, it appears that Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows that moderate drinkers (defined as 1-3 drinks per day) outlive non-drinkers. However, the paper shows that, though only slightly, heavy drinkers tend to outlive non-drinkers as well!

I personally like to credit our collective collectiveness, sociability, relieved stress, lower blood pressure, higher HDL (the good cholesterol, found in decent quantities in darker beers) and overall wonderful senses of humor that we've worked so hard on here at ATK.

From the article:

All that beer, yet so slender and fit!  
But a new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that — for reasons that aren't entirely clear — abstaining from alcohol does actually tend to increase one's risk of dying even when you exclude former drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers' mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers...

But even after controlling for nearly all imaginable variables — socioeconomic status, level of physical activity, number of close friends, quality of social support and so on — the researchers (a six-member team led by psychologist Charles Holahan of the University of Texas at Austin) found that over a 20-year period, mortality rates were highest for those who had never been drinkers, second-highest for heavy drinkers and lowest for moderate drinkers.
Slainte, mazel tov, cheers and bottoms-up, gents. I personally am gonna work on adding a few more years to my life span tonight!

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A Review Of Sorts

Friday, August 27, 2010

Yeah, so no beer review, again, today. I have been sick since Wednesday with a bad cold. Given that, I can't even taste the strongest of foods, nor smell even my 3 boys' nasty little feet that are apparently stinking up the entire house. So that makes tasting little subtleties out of the question.

So instead, the review of sorts, is this article written by famed movie reviewer Roger Ebert: Ten Things I Know About The Mosque.

Point #9 made me laugh out loud.

Point #10 makes me kinda want to hurt someone.

#3, I agree with, with reservation. (I don't think it'll be moved; it's too late)

#5 is Steves' mantra, and dammitall, I agree.

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Actions Have Consequences

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'm sure this is just an isolated incident. And this.

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Moron the Community Center 3 Blocks From Ground Zero

Monday, August 23, 2010

Watch in fascination as an angry lily-white mob threatens a guy who they think is a Muslim (24 seconds in, he delivers, fearlessly, my favorite quote of this entire debate: "y'all dumb motherfuckers don't know my opinion on shit.").We are a stupid, stupid people.

From Little Green Footballs (quoted from the videographer): "Later I caught up with the man who’s name is Kenny. He is a Union carpenter who works at Ground Zero."

The next time NPR of all stations calls it the Ground Zero Mosque, I am calling them and asking for my money back. As far as I'm concerned, that phrase is part and parcel to the racist attack we see here. It fuels all of the misconceptions that the drivers of this movement use to their advantage. It's fucking twisted.

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Fantasy Football part II

Friday, August 20, 2010

I hate to interrupt the ongoing saga of the Ground Zero Mosque with something trivial, but we need a few more players for our FF league. Our League name is Around the Keg. The ID number is 485088 and the password is guiness. Non-ATKers, spouses, friends. Invite whomever you want.

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GOP Profiteering

So over the top, you might think its a skit on SNL.  Prepare to be pissed.

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The Ground Zero Mosque...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

...for the record, is not at Ground Zero. It is three blocks away.

Nor is it a mosque, any more than a YMCA is a church.

There has been much published about what exactly abounds in that three blocks, and it appears to be mainly porn, liquor, a restaurant, a cheap clothing store and an off-track betting facility.

This link shows via stunning cameraphone pix just what exactly resides on the hallowed ground that is 1 - 3 blocks from Ground Zero (again, decidedly not actually Ground Zero itself).

Our lovely, unbiased media has taken to calling in the Ground Zero Mosque or some derivation thereupon. Again, this is a misnomer. It is quite not at Ground Zero. This begs the question: how far exactly is the reach of the sanctity of Ground Zero? 10 blocks? 20? All of Manhattan? I am afraid I know the answer, and I am afraid the answer is "everywhere."

This op-ed from the Detroit News written by known douchenozzle Charles Krauthammer (just look at his pic...tell me I'm wrong), suggests again and again that the moque will actually be situated directly on top of Ground Zero. He then, without laughing, goes on to compare it to a convent set up in a death camp and a hypothetical German center of good-will constructed next to yet another death camp. No false comparisons there.

Just for the record, take one more look at pics from the real proposed site. Just, you know, to help make an informed decision about the appropriateness of this mosque-that's-not-a-mosque-but-instead-is-a-community-center-with-Jewish-and-Christian-board-members.

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Fantasy Football

Monday, August 16, 2010

I just have a quick question for the ATK staff and regular posters. I just realized that football season is getting close. I love watching games and going to the occasional one, but I also love fantasy football. Unfortunately, the league I have been a part of for the last 10 years has disbanded. I was wondering if there was any interest in and ATK league. We would need 10-12 players and I would use Yahoo, as it seems to work better than the others I have tried. If there isn't any interest, then does anyone belong to another one I could join. I prefer to join one where I know most of the others, as opposed to some random league.

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Thief

At 7:30 this morning, a call came in from Expedia.com. They were calling to verify a trip to Africa.

Of course, neither of us are flying to Africa.

My credit card got hacked. This card is linked to our joint bank account. I called and got the card blocked, but not before more than $3,800 in purchases were run-up on the card.

Here's the kicker: we have to wait for those purchases to post to the account...and thus temporarily lose several consecutive $700+ purchases...before we can dispute them. We can't cut them off ahead of time. Because we called so quickly and got in front of it, all of these charges seemed to happen in just one day and that strengthens our case as to what is and is not ours. But if just 1 charge goes through that the bank won't let me dispute, I AM buying airline tickets for a one-man murder spree.

So I am on my way to losing nearly $4,000 FUCKING DOLLARS to some sphincter-kissing fuckface in Africa and some dickfucking fuck hole in New Zeeland so they can enjoy $700 in vitamin supplements, $700 and $600 in flights, and various sundry other charges for roughly $700 a pop. Fuck you guys.

Thanks to Expedia for catching it and alerting us. I will use that company from now on for my travel needs.

But a big giant eat-a-pile-of-shit to the dickwads who stole from my family. As we are unable to use our account until the charges are disputed and the like, things...simple things...like eggs and milk for the kids will have to go on our credit card which we then have to pay off later, but only after APRs are charged.

This is hugely inconvenient. Just goes to show...

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