Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hoppy New Year!

After a tough year at the Beerme home, I am looking forward to a better year, starting tomorrow. My oldest son has moved to Atlanta, Georgia to begin his life as an independent man. I'm happy about that and for his continued health since battling and beating cancer a couple of years ago. My youngest son had a tough year last year, as well, but seems to be picking himself up and dusting himself off for a run at 2007. My wife has been fighting the loss of her oldest boy, since the move to Atlanta a couple of months ago, but she is happy and healthy as well. I am working hard at maintaining my professional status with the State and moonlighting as an educator one day a week. All is good.

As for the brewing, it went pretty slowly this past year, but picked up considerably during the last month or two. A review of my brewlog shows the following brew schedule:
1-15-2006-Rye-Rish Red Ale, the eventual blue ribbon winner at the Michigan State Fair!
1-15-2006-Jeff's Amber Ale, a fine Strong Ale brewed with my friend Jeff
5-29-2006-Top-Heavy Blonde, a Belgian Golden Ale that was somewhat disappointing
11-4-2006-The Mild Ale That Wasn't, a brew done at the Teach A Friend To Homebrew celebration at Hopman's Brewing Supply in Waterford Township
11-24-2006-Golem Barleywine, a smokin' strong ale (11%) that appears to be a real winner, so far...
12-3-2006-The Bitter End, an ESB that also looks like a winner (if the judges can get past the American hop presence)
12-3-2006-Honey I Shrunk the Beer, a Small Beer produced by the final runnings of the ESB. Also a fine beer, perhaps a session beer of some prominence.

So there you have it. Seven beers this year. Not much to crow about in terms of production but all were very good, with the exception of the Belgian.

What I hope for in 2007, brewing-wise, is some more consistency. I would like to see better efficiency in my brewing, some new equipment (new or homemade) that will better the product, more prolific brewing, a better hop harvest and some more awards for my beer. I think I may have ensured at least the last wish with at least one of the beers I brewed over the last month, but I'm still awaiting some independent evaluation from my friends before predicting it.

This year is barley over but may the new year be very hoppy for you all!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Corruption Barometer

What with William Jefferson's being re-elected by a substantial majority and Republicans and Democrats all across the country coming under fire left and right for corruption and ethics issues, I thought a visit to Transparency International would bear a look see. From their website: "Transparency International is a global network including more than 90 locally established national chapters and chapters-in-formation. These bodies fight corruption in the national arena in a number of ways. They bring together relevant players from government, civil society, business and the media to promote transparency in elections, in public administration, in procurement and in business. TI’s global network of chapters and contacts also use advocacy campaigns to lobby governments to implement anti-corruption reforms."

Though many of us are prone to argue that a country's politics and economic structure is what makes it a good or bad place to live, in most cases it is the presence of corruption, in its many forms, that truly sorts the good from the bad. "Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It hurts everyone whose life, livelihood or happiness depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority." I certainly would expect that those countries with socialist regimes and economies, or theocratic dictatorships (as in Iran, for instance) would score very high on the corruption barometer, and it turns out, they do. Still, many countries with freely elected governments, with free economic environments score high, as well. What keeps these countries from making the lives of their citizens better is, quite simply, corruption.

Many of us have experienced corruption in our lives, here in the good old USA. When the cop in your hometown pulls people over just to pad his stats on Drunk Driving convictions (yeah, it happens here) or when the local election officials throw your vote away or assist in limiting others ability to vote or get out the vote, that's corruption. We could be much better off than we are, and we're doing great compared to most countries! Just imagine how prevalent and horrific these things are in, say, Turkey or Pakistan.

It is my belief that free economies (and ours is not nearly as free as it should be), rule of law (honestly and fairly enforced) and local control in most governmental matters, are the prerequisites for true freedom in any country. The more I read, the more I feel this way.

For a look at how the different participating countries did in the "corruption barometer" surveys at Transparency International, visit this site and click on "English Global Corruption Barometer 2006" under the segment entitled "Full Report".

Friday, December 01, 2006

Shredded Pork

Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican (or anything in between) you will probably agree that:
1. The government spends too much money, and
2. People who want special things for their own areas should pay for them themselves.

If so, you should be encouraged by some of the actions of a certain junior Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn. It seems as though Coburn has been on a lonely crusade to end pork-barrel spending for a couple of years now, with little to show for it but grief and the wrath of his more senior fellows. He doesn't seem to care, though, because he has stepped up his attack on pork and everything connected to it lately, and is finally getting some positive results for his efforts.

Check out this article from Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward, to get a pretty nifty accounting of his successes in this crusade. From his attacks on the "Bridge to Nowhere" to his collaboration with "Osama Obama" on a pork attachment transparency bill earlier this year, Coburn has been making a name for himself among those who think this federal government has simply gone swine crazy. It is not unusual to see the attachment of thousands of pieces of pork (earmarks) to a large appropriations bill nowadays. These kinds of additions used to-say in times of yore, as recently as the 1980s-number more like a few hundred, at the most.

If you're tired of hearing about the senator from Hawaii or Alaska (or Mississippi or Massachusetts, for that matter) larding on pet projects for their states to be paid for by the taxpayers of the other states, then you should applaud this man's efforts and try to vote in more like him.

Honestly, there's not alot to be hopeful about in our federal government these days, so when a federal politician commits to doing the right thing, despite rocking (more like upending) the boat in the gentleman's club that is the US Senate, it should be noticed and appreciated!