Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Blue Ribbon" Beer

As promised, I will now reveal the results of Beerme's entries into the Michigan State Fair Homebrewing Competition. The Blue Ribbon for the best Irish Red Ale at the 2006 competition goes to-drumroll, please-Beerme!

Only one of the five beers entered placed (oh, well!), but that one won the first place award. The beer was called "Rye-rish Red Ale" and was an Irish Red Ale, brewed with thrity percent rye malt. It won in the Irish Red Ale category. I picked up my award yesterday at the awards ceremony.

The beer received 44 points out of a possible 50. As a First Place winner, it was entered in the Best of Show judging but a Vienna Lager took those honors. Some favorable judges' comments were, "Creamy, malty, smooth tofee-like, fruity Irish Red", "Rich & creamy (again w/the high carbonation), medium body w/nice width/depth" and "Just enough bitter to nearly balance the sweet malt. Could be stronger but not necessary". The last two quotes were from a National ranked BJCP judge!

The other beers were treated respectably, with two of them scoring more than 32 points, so all-in-all it wasn't a bad showing. It does make me anxious to start brewing again!

I'll post the link to the website when the results are posted, there.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bliss Defined

I have spent the last twenty-three years married to a wonderful person. She is my very best friend and the love of my life. I know how lucky I am to have fallen into this rare condition. All around me are the pratfalls of my friends and co-workers, who fall victim to temptation and the simple problems of cohabitation, yet here I stand still married and happy after twenty-three years!

My wife is a hard-working, loving woman. She raised two young men to maturity with great facility (some might say three...). She worked most of those years at a full time job, as well as the overtime involved in keeping a home. Good cook, sweet companion, marvelous lover and thoughtful confidant: she's a keeper!

To add to all this, she has done it while living with a narcissistic, ponderous, ne'er-do-well, like me! My God! The woman's a saint!

Wish me a Happy Anniversary if you would, but I really don't think I need it...I married up, you see.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Still Safe After All These Years

"And what [last week's] plot reminds us is that five years after 9/11, the United States has not eliminated al-Qa'ida. We eliminated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in under four years, but five years into this war against al-Qa'ida, they're out there still plotting major attacks against the United States." —ABC News consultant Richard Clarke

Well there's a sane voice in the world, eh? This statement of a career public official, longtime terror expert, Clinton apologist, and Bush critic needs further examination.

What is it that the esteemed terror/security expert draws from the foiled terror plot last week? Not that the world has learned to do a better job in dealing with Islamic fascists, or that a plot of this sort was unable to be carried out in our post-9/11 world but that we haven't eliminated al-Qa'ida! Who thought that we would have eliminated al Qa'ida by now? Certainly not Richard Clarke who has been criticized for riding the fence and worrying about political considerations too much to be bothered with doing anything to actually stop bin Laden. The Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti writes: "Scheuer (former chief of the bin Laden Unit at the Counterterrorist Center at the CIA) believes that Clarke’s risk aversion and politicking negatively impacted the hunt for Bin Laden prior to September 11, 2001. Scheuer stated that his unit, codename 'Alec,' had provided information that could have led to the capture and or killing of Osama bin Laden on ten different occasions, only to have his recommendations for action turned down by senior intelligence officials, including Clarke." I'm certain you could not find any member of the Bush camp after 9/11 saying publicly that al Qa'ida will be completely defeated in five years, so what's Clarke talking about?

Could his comments be nothing more than a partisan cheapshot aimed at the current administration? You betcha! He has been a proven liar in the past few years and every time the lie has been one for partisan reasons. In 1999, he was all for the suggestion that al Qa'ida was in bed with Sadaam Hussein. He changed his mind during the politically heated run-up to the 2004 election, though and said there was no such link. During the aftermath of the 9/11 crisis, it was Clarke who made the decision to fly the bin Laden family out of the country. He stated under oath, however, that the decision was made by someone in the Bush administration before admitted later that he had authorized it himself and still stood by his decision. In his book, Against All Enemies-published in March, 2004, he stated that Donmald Rumsfeld, "who looked distracted throughout the session, took the (Deputy Defense Secretary Paul) Wolfowitz line that there were other terrorists concerns, like Iraq". This meeting was held on September 4, 2001. The only problem with this statement is that Rumsfeld was not in attendance at that meeting. Politicking with the facts, Mr. Clarke?

Yes, the United States and its allies defeated Germany and Japan in four years and we have not finished the war on terror in over five. Is that a news flash? How is it that the war against the Axis powers ended in only four years? Does anyone remember the "disproportionate response" that finished off the will of the Japanese to continue fighting? Perhaps if we fought that kind of war against the jihadists we could win it in les than five years, too. I imagine Mr. Clarke would not be too happy with that type of prosecution of the WOT, though.

When I see the news that this terrible plot was thwarted I am proud that we may have learned a few things about fighting this enemy. I am heartened that some of our techniques for prosecuting this war on terror are working. I am glad that different agencies and different countries are working together to resolve this problem. And I pray that most of the partisan Democrats and nattering, naysaying career politicians in the Executive Branch are either getting with the program or retiring, like Richard Clarke.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Power Vacuum

While waiting to attend the MSF Homebrew awards ceremony on August 26, I continue to study liberal/leftist thinkers to glean what insights are possible from the lot of them. One thing I have come to understand is that the lack of a set system of morals tends to plague most of these thinkers. With God being dead and all, they have no moral compass upon which to rely, falling back on moral relativism and the age-old "might makes right" axiom. If there is no God (or even a moral system which can be agreed upon that is secular in origin, however plausible that concept is) and everyone should be free to decide on their own what is morally right and morally wrong, what decides whose concept of morality is correct? Why, it must be power!

Most leftists will tell you that the old morals are dead. Many will tell you that the idea of a belief in God should be ridiculed as well. In place of these age-old systems of belief, morality and strictures of social conduct, the Leftist places the idea of a "perfectable mankind". In the eyes of the Leftist, mankind is not flawed (weak and stricken with the inability to make moral decisions on his own) but is-through the use of science and technology-perfectable. The only reason mankind has not solved all of its troubles and created the true workers paradise is because we haven't yet quite figured out how to perfect the one weak cog in the machine: Man.

Marx believed that Capitalism was doomed because it alienated the workers as well as the capitalist from their true nature. In this way people became identified with the products they made and/or consumed. This rather metaphysical concept was called "commodity fetishism". He believed that under communism, a planned and organized system of government/economy, man could achieve what it could not under the unorganized, disparate system of capitalism. Since he has been proven wrong a thousand times, his adherents still insist that the perfection of the weak cog has yet to be achieved. What he failed to understand is that mankind is flawed. Call it "original sin" if you like or say simply that mankind is petty and weak for the most part because,'s only human. Whatever your take on the reason for man's fallibility, understand that science can only take man so far. Petty greed, human weakness and prejudice/bigotry will always flaw this grand experiment. Only a system that recognizes that weakness and places safeguards against it, while providing an automatic mechanism for achieving what we want (private property) for ourselves (freedom) without harming our fellow men (rule of law) will ever succeed. Capitalism is the only system to apply these ideals and it works.

Presently in the world we see a strange group of leftist/terrorist bedfellows. In Russia, we have a government that has shaken off the label of communism but remains largely socialist to this day. They freely trade with groups and nations that have stated aims to destroy democratic governments and establish a worldwide theocracy. This is certainly not in Russia's best interest, is it? Take the nations of Iran and Venezuela. The leaders of these two nations are remarkably friendly these days, aren't they? Hugo Chavez sounds alot like Ahmadinajad when he complains about America and its imperialist plans against the rest of the world. Now this complaint is nothing new. Communists have been railing against an invisible imperialism in the USA for nearly a hundred years, now. What is interesting is that Ahmadinajad says much the same when he is asked about America. Perhaps the presence of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan helps to explain this talk of empire but I can't help but think it is a useful appropriation of the old socialist rhetoric.

How does a leader of an Islamic Republic, a veritable theocracy, find a friend in a socialist/communist who doesn't believe in God and wants to erase all religious thought from the world as backward-thinking superstition? It is the filling of the power vacuum, created by the fall of the Soviet Union. Since the fall of the USSR, America's presence in the world as the only super power threatens the world view that has no moral compass to guide it. The communists and socialists, as well as the jihadists, fear the power of the United States because they understand nothing but power: power over their people's ways of life, thought processes and belief systems. If might truly makes right, as we in the USA know is morally wrong, then they had all better work together to make themselves stronger against this powerful foe (us). Don't think for a second that our allies in the European Union aren't thinking along the same lines, either. France continues to trade both weaponry and nuclear technology with Iran, even while working together with the US in the UN to create resolutions to halt the use of these technologies. What does this tell you?

Viewed in this way, the events on the world stage become much clearer, don't they?
As long as we continue to believe in right and wrong, we will be hated by those that think there is only "different", along with their allies who think only Islam is right and everyone else is wrong...or doomed. But take heart because the American liberal establishment is working hard to erase our moral compass so that we can become one with the rest of the world and then we'll be safe...right?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pondering Liberalism

I am always trying to figure out liberals. They confound and confuse me at almost every turn. I mean, do they not see the political pandering behind the leftists in the Democrat Party when they denounce someone like Lieberman as "Bush's lapdog" (yeah, a Senator who votes with his party 90% of the time and has been a liberal stalwart for thirty years, a Republican lapdog!)or stand behind partisan hack like Murtha when he denounces our efforts in the Middle East and palpably prays for our failure in that struggle, just to win a few seats for his party in November? I see similar failures in the Republican Party and am ashamed by them. I also readily condemn those responsible and point it out. Delay's pompous denial that there is anything left to cut in last year's porkfest of a budget was reprehensible. The wedding of so many Republicans to cash-fisted lobbyists and their addiction to pork makes me sick. I condemn their poor behavior and their hypocritical insistence that they're for less government when they're indistinguishable from Democrats most of the time.

Now if I see and recognize these weaknesses and foibles in my preferred political party, why does it seem that Democrats can't do the same when faced with hypocrisy and political slight-of-hand? It doesn't take a genius to see that a constant barrage of "Bush killed my cat" is just so much bullshit, when there are serious problems and solutions to work on. If the Republicans are going to conduct business like Democrats, then what do I care if they maintain their majority? I don't!

I've been reading some historical essays on and by the American Left. Yeah, it's a tough job but somebody has to do it. I pulled out some of my college textbooks recently and thought it would be fun to re-read some of them. It was. It gave me some better insight into what drives liberalism and the relationships between liberalism and communism and the continuing struggle between the forces of government versus the forces of freedom.

One thing I was astonished to read was a part of a speech delivered in 1919 by Victor Berger (1860-1929), Socialist congressman from Milwaukee. In it Mr. Berger states that socialists "never claim that the concentration of capital is the cause of evil...The trusts are the legitimate outcome of competition. The trust is the 'survival of the fittest' under capitalism. The trust appears after competition has virtually destroyed competition." So here is Berger a socialist, claiming that he sees the trust or monopoly as the finest resolution of the business process, the evolutionary pinnacle of capitalism. He thinks it is efficient and modern and economical beacuse of its centralization of control and its "efficient" concentration of work and services. This is the fatal flaw of socialism showing its ultimate product. Socialism bases its philosophy on the abolition of private property which will bring about wealth for all:from each according to their ability, to each according to their need. This philosophy centers around science and the ability of man using scientific methods to both create this utopia and make the citizenry enjoy their new paradise enough to not miss the fruits of their own labor.

In this way, socialists are no different from many other groups whose hubris fools them into thinking their ideas for what the future should be can be anywhere close to the unpredictable, dynamic reality of what is possible. Life and progress are largely self-organizing systems that produce many unpredictable and wonderful outcomes, when freedom, self-interest, private property and the rule of law provide the assist. For more information on this concept, see the wonderful book by Virgina PostrelThe Future and its Enemies.

Back to this speech. Berger goes on to say that socialists "appreciate so fully the advantage of industrial production on a large scale that we wish its most perfect development-and wish to give its benefits to everybody-which is impossible under the capitalist system. For that reason we want to nationalize the trusts". Doesn't that remind you of the old Who lyrics? "Meet the new Boss. Same as the old Boss".

Of course the truth in all this is that this centralization of control and ever growing monopoly of business interests was not the highest form of economic behavior. Smaller, more supple and more decentralized control structures have proven to be far more nimble and flexible in today's economy. These are the corporations that are really making changes in our society, while the Fords, IBMs and ATTs are langusihing and whithering on the capitalist vine. Much of the problem with the old thinking was the fallacy that bigger is better but some of it was in the fallacy that the path to more productivity and more efficiency lies in the direction of ever more centralization of command and control powers. This was also the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Of course the left always has the romantic, Robin Hood theme to unite its utopian followers. Take from the lazy, undeserving rich and give to the overworked and overburdened poor. Who can argue with this? It's always easy to agree with someone who says it's a good idea to take property from someone else who doesn't deserve it. It only becomes a problem when the ruling powers decide that you are the one that doesn't deserve your property. Then we want to abandon those high-minded principles and say, "But that's my property. I worked for that and it's mine". "Imagine no possessions" never sounded much good to me but I guess it floats alot of people's boats, judging from the membership in liberal and socialist groups.

No matter what the leftists and liberals say they believe in, you'll find that many of these core socialist principles are in their political repertoire. That's why they're always for the underdog in political conflicts: Palestinians, Iraqi insurgents, Hezbollah, etc. That's also why they think the Soviet Union, despite all evidence to the contrary, was such a magnanimous and positive force in the world. Likewise the leftists belief in the ability of governments to do all that needs doing in the world, despite all manner of evidence to the contrary, from the failures of Katrina to the laughable losers who pushed for the Big Dig project. They still believe in science and the ability of men, united in political power, to effect real change in our lives for the better, while never understanding that these groups of men also carry with them their own prejudices, greeds and a multitude of ulterior motives.

I believe in private property and the ability of men and women, motivated by their own self-interest, to effect lasting change for the better, in a system that rewards individual effort and protects the lives and property of the participants. It will create more progress and do more good for those less fortunate than any centralized government effort in the world. History and science backs that belief up over and over again. We just have to make the politicians back off and leave us all alone to do what we know how to do. That is a tall order indeed, but I believe in progress and the ability of people to learn what's good for them in the long run. So, I'm optimistic...