Monday, December 24, 2007

Super Wednesday

During this wondrous time, when all hold dear the spirit of Christmas, including such concepts as fairness, non-competitiveness and service to those less fortunate, I would like to suggest that we all follow Senator Hillary Clinton's lead and ask that those who are going to vote Democratic, vote on some date that is past the actual voting date. In the past, I have asked many of the Democrats I know to be sure to vote on Super Wednesday. This has actually been very effective on a few occasions, as those Democrats have told me that they were going to do just that and cancel out my Republican vote. These admissions were made with defiant and proud demeanors, meant to stifle any ridicule I might muster. Well, I can tell you they put me right in my place!

It appears that the good Senator from New York urged her supporters to be sure to vote for her on January 14, in Iowa. I second her motion, here, and hope that in each state her supporters react similarly according to her progressive agenda. I would suggest they stick to a date somewhat less than eleven days progressive to the actual date of the primary, but any progressive date would be helpful to the rest of us.

Just when the conservatives in the country were under the impression that Santa Hillary had nothing in her sack for them, she throws out this gem of an idea! I for one, would like to thank the honorable Senator from New York for doing such forward-thinking work. This behavior is such a marked difference from some of her other noted actions, that it makes many of us marvel at what the Christmas season can do to even the hardest of hearts.

"You show people what you're willing to fight for when you fight your friends."- Hillary Clinton

There, now. Doesn't that just about say it all?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bonzo Mania!

One of my guilty pleasures is a fondness for the odd or the unpopular, especially if it has genuine quality in it. Well, I can't think of a more odd, unpopular or genuinely excellent musical group than the Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band. I've been a fan of these patently insane British "musicians" for many a year. Unfortunately, I was not a fan early enough to have actually seen the band, but a friend of mine claims he saw them at the Michigan State Fair in the late sixties. They disbanded in 1970 but did produce one more album in 1971. I became infatuated with their music in the early seventies. Their comic genius-typically British, typically subdued and typically sarcastic-puts one in mind of the Monty Python group. Actually, Eric Idle was a regular "member", as were Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and many many other famous musicians and comedians in Britain at the time.

The band began with a group of Art College students who loved traditional jazz and dixieland music and formed a band to play it. Their creativity moved them into comical revisions of the genres in which they were originally interested and some very interesting results were obtained. Over the course of their development they became the "house band" on a weekly children's television show called Do Not Adjust Your Set, which featured Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame. Later, they began writing and recording some more mainstream (Ha!) Rock music cuts, some of which actually made it on the "charts", in England. Even during this period, they kept tongue planted firmly in cheek, rest assured! If I could suggest one album to listen to it would be Gorrilla, from 1967, but, really, it is impossible to choose and there's no reason to do so. Take a few hours and listen to them all! They run the spectrum in genres from Dixieland Jazz, to Spike Jones, to British Blues, to Psychedelic Rock to Elvis and even some Country Western! Something for everyone, so to speak.

So what brings such a topic up for discussion some thirty-six years after the band's demise? They have re-united again and produced their first new album since 1971! Now, I have bored and amazed my friends for decades by making them listen to the fantastic works of this band at parties and during long travels in the car. Some actually listen and they get it, while others simply get bored because it doesn't match the latest musical trends and they lose interest quickly. They know me as the guy who likes weird music. If it's unusual, quirky or just plain weird, I probably know something about it. The thing is, though, this band is different! They're not only weird and comical (and they are freaking hilarious!) but they have true musical talent and songwriting abilities, as well. Think of them as Monty Python with instruments and much, much more. Supposedly, their stage presence was frenetic and wildly entertaining, often involving skits, costumes, acting and the lot. They were multi-media, then!

Of course no written article can impart the rich, comic and musical genius of the Bonzos to the public without benefit of actually hearing the music, itself. And that would violate many copyright laws and such, so it isn't possible, here. You'll have to search them out and listen to them on your own. They are certainly worth the trouble. One of my Christmas presents will be the new album available here both in downloadable format and for ready-made purchase. Of course, their other albums are still for sale as well.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Christmas Ale

I brewed a Christmas Ale on October 27th which is a clone of Affligem Noel. I hadn't actually tried that particular Belgian brew before but it sounded good and I had a hankerin' to brew! Last night at the Holiday party for the Pontiac Brewing Tribe (one of the brew clubs I belong to), I actually tried that beer, along with some N'ice Chouffe and some Delirium Noel! They were all pretty special. Add to that some fantastic homebrewed meads, wines and beers and it was a pretty tasty night!

This beer taxed my keggle system as it filled the mash tun pretty much to its capacity, as seen by the picture on the page. I did oversparge, though (based on my Beertools pro recommendation) and ended up with a beer a little less strong than expected (but a lot more of it!). Anyway, here is the recipe for a ten gallon batch (or thirteen):

34 lbs. Pilsner malt
1 lb. Belgian Caramunich
1 lb. Belgian Aromatic
.5 lb. Belgian Biscuit
.5 lb. Chocolate Malt
.25 lb. Honey Malt
1 lb. Light Brown Sugar
2 lbs. White Table Sugar (Beet based)
.4 teaspoon cinnamon (15 min.)
2 teaspoons Irish Moss (15 min.)
1.5 oz. Styrian Goldings (60 min.)
1 oz. Styrian Goldings (15 minutes)
.5 oz Styrian Goldings (5 minutes)
1 teaspoon crushed coriander (5 minutes)
White Labs 530 Abbey Ale Yeast (two half gallon starters)

Mashed at 152 for one hour batch sparged and primary fermented in glass for one week, transferred to secondary (glass) for three weeks and pitched an additional half gallon of same yeast five days before bottling.

I added some 100% cocoa Chocolate (one ounce) in the secondary of the three gallon carboy. I bottled that day before yesterday. It smelled very vinous (winey) but when I tried a bottle today (partially carbonated) it tasted pretty good, just a bit harsh (alcohol). I didn't notice the chocolate but the cinnamon came through subtly. It was sweet and spicy with a caramel malt note and had some characteristic Belgian spiciness in the aftertaste. Hop presence was subued. I can't wait to try it in a month or so (and then again a year or two or so...). At about eight percent alcohol it should age well!

I won't be bottling the other ten gallons for about a week or so, as it is still fermenting!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

BDS and Other Insanities

The Left is awash in Bush Derangement Syndrome. It is the overriding belief that no matter how far removed from the problem at hand, everything on earth that goes bad is Bush's fault. Now, I don't mean to denigrate those who've made a living or a name out of this behavior (Rosie O'Donnell, Sean Penn, and Liberal Larry come to mind...), but now that Bush's final term is winding down and he won't be running again, it is a bit silly to continue to blame everything on W.

Thinking about this topic, as I was today, I realized that this syndrome is probably based upon an emotional response to what Bush and his policies seem to be to the majority of the people who feel that way. This is no scientific study but I tend to think of most of the BDS sufferers as liberals and anti-war types, who are also likely not very religious or are actually secular humanists/atheists. These folks see Bush as a "cowboy", a misspeaking misanthrope and a religious nut that wants to rule America as a evangelical theocracy. Most of their anger and distrust of Bush comes from one or more of these views of his "agenda".

Full disclosure: I have photos of Bush and his wife on my basement wall, next to my brewery and my wife framed our Christmas card from the Bush's a few years ago. I admired the man very much for his leadership after 9/11 and his aggressive stance in the War on Terror. In truth, I probably embraced Bush almost as much for the anger he engendered in liberals as for the agreements I had with his positions. I was also very disappointed in many of his positions and decisions over the course of his two terms and am much more disillusioned in the man and his policies now. I see his good points and his bad by using reason and not emotion when I try to do the evaluation. That logical evaluation is the key.

That is what is missing from the Bush Derangement Sufferers and, consequently, what is missing from those who blindly support Bush and his policies when they are wrong. Supporting Bush when he presses for amnesty for illegals, for increased governmental powers and less freedom for Americans and for spending our progeny into the poorhouse is as deranged as any Truther position that Rosie spouts. If you really think that increasing the powers of the presidency and allowing the government to improve their ability to spy on US citizens is a good thing, it's only because you trust George W. Bush. I trust him, too, for the most part. But I don't trust the government and I certainly don't want powers given to Bush to be handed over to Hillary Clinton in a year or so. See my meanin'?

I was thinking lately that while this federal government continues to tell us that they need to be able to intercept emails and phone calls at the drop of a hat, in order to keep us free and safe from the terrorists, that argument really doesn't square with the facts. The fact is that our government, like all bloated, flabby, brainless bureaucracies, will not be effective with the tools we give it and will abuse those tools given half a chance. This will happen and is happening in Bush's term and will be much worse if a liberal Democrat wins the White House.

Now, I know many of my conservative friends will say that the federal government needs to be able to spy on us for our own good and that there have been no documented cases of actual citizens being spied upon by the government using the expanded powers of the federal government provided by the Patriot Act and its successors. They will say that the government isn't interested in our petty emails and phone calls; they are trying to stop the next Al Qaeda attack. Furthermore many of them will say that if you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about. I'm sure that was a common statement of J. Edgar Hoover and COINTELPRO.

Rather than arguing that the government is overstepping its bounds, as I believe it has (see this article and others at JWR by Nat Hentoff for clarification), I would rather argue that we can't trust the government because of its bungling, corrupt nature and ineffectiveness, regardless of whether it is deliberately invading our privacy against the strictures of our Constitution.

Take 9/11, for instance. Many people have argued that our government did not have the tools to prevent the attacks prior to that event and argue that we need these new tools to keep us safe. Hogwash! Remember that phrase "connect the dots"? The dots were there prior to 9/11 but we didn't connect them. Even the Director of National Intelligence, Michael McConnell admitted in September, before Congress, that if those "dots" had been connected, "9/11 should have and could have been prevented". Arguing for more governmental power in light of this statement sounds a bit contrived, doesn't it? If we had all the data we needed before 9/11 but failed to put it together, would more power to access more data actually help us in the future? And at what price?

In this month's Reason magazine, Jeff Taylor writes a brief article about the FBI's inability to stop 9/11, though they had all of the necessary information beforehand. It's an excellent, short treatment of the ineffectiveness of one of our top federal police agencies during the weeks leading up to that dreadful day. To paraphrase his article, federal agents on the ground knew that hijackers Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al Hazmi had sought pilot training. They knew that Zacarias Moussaoui had sought the same sort of training and that he was carrying 747 manuals when he was picked up on immigration charges. McClatchy Newspapers' Greg Gordon reported on 9/10/2007 that information in Moussaoui's notebooks, for which supervisors at FBI headquarters refused to seek a warrant (against the pleadings of special agent Harry Samit), would clearly have exposed the hijackers and prevented the attacks. Samit, himself, blamed the "obstructionism, criminal negligence and careerism" as the roadblock in his own investigation. Increased surveillance powers will not improve those problems, will it?

Finally, as we head up to the next presidential elections and Hillary Clinton is the clear frontrunner among all candidates, do we really want to give this clearly corrupt, immoral and power-mad person the keys to our newly hopped-up terrorist hunting (and civil liberty destroying) hotrod? I think not!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Noble Prize

Alfred Nobel , when he died in 1895, left some money in his will that created the funds to award the prizes that will forever be doled out in his name. He was presumably all tore up over what he perceived would be his legacy as the inventor of Dynamite and wanted leave a different sort of namby-pamby legacy, instead. Now, why he would want to be so embarrassed by his legacy as the inventor of one of the most important inventions the world has ever known is beyond this writer. After all, Jimmie JJ Johnson isn't ashamed of his trademark, "DYNOMITE!", is he?

Anyway, the guiding principle of these awards seems to have been Nobel's guilt at having created so destructive a force as...he-he-he...Dynamite. He wanted to be remembered for his prizes, which have since been awarded to more commies and fruitcakes than you can shake a stick of Dynamite at. First, let's see what the criteria of these awards was supposed to be, as defined by Alfred's will:

"The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency; and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

At least for Literature, the criteria seem to be somewhat political, don't they?

one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency

None of the other criteria seem to have any value judgments, do they? So I guess we can forgive the Norwegian Nobel Committee for awarding the majority of these (Literary) prizes to communists who have enjoyed little or no commercial success and have done little other than skewer the beliefs and values of a majority of the world's peoples in their inconsequential works. But how do we square the incredibly political bent of the committee in awarding all of the other prizes? I guess we just chalk that up to the Leftist-intelligentsia of Europe.

To illustrate we should look no further than the Peace category. Here are the past few years winners:
2007-The IPPC and Al Gore Jr. for scaring the hell out of everyone and prodding a guilty West into supporting a Luddite visions of the future, while allowing certain enlightened visionaries to continue to enjoy life's technological largesse.
2006-Muhammed Yunus and Grameen Bank for setting up a "bank" that supposedly gives loans with no collateral to poor subsistence farmers in Bangladesh or somewhere. And supposedly this "bank" is making a profit! Ok, you know this is impossible, right? It sounds so uplifting, though and makes me feel warm all over.
2005- International Atomic Energy Agency and Muhamed ElBaradei for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way. Leaving aside that they have not been one whit successful and that no one wants nuclear energy to be used in an unsafe manner, what exactly have these folks done to merit a prize of any kind?
2004-Wangari Maathai for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. "Sustainable development" is eco-speak for methods that third-worlders can't afford. It's just fine for San Francisco liberals to work on sustainable development, but Kenyans and other Third-worlders need to develop at any cost. They certainly don't need to worry about diversity, eco-friendliness or any of these weakly defined hippie concepts.
2003-Shirin Ebadi for her efforts for democracy and human rights. Hhhmmm, maybe...but why her? Aren't there plenty of people working for this in the world and probably doing much more good than Ms. Ebadi? Let's look at the Nobel Committee's press release:
Ebadi is a conscious Moslem. She sees no conflict between Islam and fundamental human rights. It is important to her that the dialogue between the different cultures and religions of the world should take as its point of departure their shared values. It is a pleasure for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize to a woman who is part of the Moslem world, and of whom that world can be proud - along with all who fight for human rights wherever they live.
Well, now it's clear as mud!
2002-Jimmy Carter Jr. for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development. Don't these reasons start sounding awfully similar after awhile?

It would seem that these prizes are awarded more for the recipients absolute failure to achieve any objective at all than for any actual achievement!

In fact, it might just be that the recipients of the infamous Ig Nobel Prizes may be more deserving of an award than the Nobel Prize Winners, at least in some cases. At least these prize winners caused a laugh or two, unlike most of the Nobel Prize Winners (Jimmy Carter and the carnivorous rabbit, excluded).

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Political Theater

Warning: long article with interest only to Michigan taxpayers ahead...

I have resisted writing about the current state of affairs in our state government in Michigan, lately. This is partly because I am very busy these days and partly because the issues are extremely conflicting for me. Full disclosure: I am an employee of the State of Michigan. This means I am paid by the taxpayers and I provide a service for all of those taxpayers. I am also one of the people whose salaries are a current drain on those same taxpayers. As our lovely Governor is wont to point out, there are two sides to a budget equation: revenues and expenditures. I am an expenditure.

The reason the issue is conflicting is that I am very much in favor of cutting state government. On the other hand I am a part of that government. The argument I make, then, sounds a bit self-serving if not disingenuous: I am in favor of cutting state government, just not my job. There how does that sound? Lame, I know. But that is just my argument. You see, I work for a portion of the government that really can't be privatized. I work in the state's prison system and, as such, we have the power of life and death over our inmates. If an inmate tries to escape, it is my duty to stop him by any means necessary, including the legal use of deadly force. I am of the opinion that the state can't delegate this power to a private entity. There are plenty of arguments to the contrary. Good ones, in fact. My own views are primarily based on the explanation given above and the poor record of those corporations that have been given that power by other states.

So, I am in favor of the portion of Michigan's government that wants to cut expenditures, before even thinking about raising revenues (That's raising taxes, in plain-speak). I am confident that-given the information and the opportunity-I could easily cut 2 Billion in fat out of the state's budget. The people who think like me on this issue are almost all Republicans.

The current crisis in Michigan's government is of course, nothing new. This summer the same sort of thing was happening in Pennsylvania. A liberal governor, Ed Rendell, threatened to shut down his state's government if a budget deal was not reached that would include his pet tax hike, an energy tax. Sound Familiar?

Here is a quote from the linked article that indicates just what was happening at the time and shows also, what is happening right now in Michigan: “It doesn’t have to be this way,” said Rep. Curt Schroder of Chester County. “The governor is using state employees and government services as pawns in an attempt to garner support for tax, fee and spending increases that fall outside the General Fund budget. It is absurd that the governor is using the livelihood of state workers to leverage support for unpopular proposals.”

I understand that Granholm and Rendell are quite friendly with one another. Perhaps she thinks that a government shutdown would be no less injurious to her and her Democrat congress than it was for Rendell. Of course that remains to be seen, as Pennsylvania voters have shown a propensity to "vote the bums out", in the past. Michigan voters, however, are mostly sheep and continue to vote primarily for liberal Democrats, even though the state's future is seriously at risk by following this prescription. For example, the Michigan state legislature (and the Governor) voted themselves a 35% increase in their wages in 2001 and there was no backlash as in the cited Pennsylvania case. (Actually, the mechanism for salary increases for our legislature and executive branch is extremely sneaky. It requires a vote by the appointed Civil Service Commision, and can only be overidden by the legislature once awarded. So the legislature didn't vote the increase, they only failed to vote against it!) In short, Granholm's gambit will probably work.

She wants a tax hike as opposed to making the truly tough decisions to make the cuts necessary to bring the budget under control. She wants to continue to make state government the tool for change in this economy, when it is actually the millstone around this economy's neck. Her "cool cities" initiative is one good example. Let's give money that the state doesn't have to cities that want to initiate changes that make them "hip"! WTF? All the while making it more difficult and costly to do business in the state. Granholm threatened the Republicans that if they don't support her "revenue" increases, she would attack state business interests by closing tax loopholes advantageous to businesses. Yikes! A state that is leaking jobs like a sieve is going to attack the only businesses who remain? Yup! That's progressive action, people! After all, we can't cozy up to the corporations, publicly. We're Democrats, after all! We'll just keep talking about the evil corporations, while eliciting quiet campaign contributions from all of the CEOs of those companies. It isn't as if we will do anything for those contributions...

There are hundreds of unnecessary, high-paid, state employees. There are hundreds of congressional staff members that are also unneeded for the actual performance of government business. Legislators earn unnecessarily high salaries, work unnecessarily long hours, earn unrealistically high retirement benefits for ridiculously short careers and unnecessarily high health care benefits. Visit the state government website to see the plethora of agencies and departments that comprise our state government. There are nineteen departments within the executive branch of our government, some of which are entirely unnecessary! All our governor has done to "streamline" these departments is shuffle high-paid administrators from one department to the other. No real reduction has taken place during her tenure. Any person that thinks it makes sense for the regular, blue-collar state employee to receive cuts to bring their compensation packages down to what the average private sector employee receives, should be outraged at what the higher end state employees are getting.

Michigan's state government is huge and it could stand a whole helluva lot of trimming. We pay many, many people over one hundred thousand dollars a year for things that have dubious benefits for most state residents. The job of General Manager for the Michigan State Fair comes to mind. This job pays over $101,000/year and includes an attractive benefit package. It doesn't rival what a general manager in the private sector might get but the job is not a private job. Here is the difference, people. These jobs are not given to people based upon their abilities, qualifications or their work histories. They're given on the basis of political considerations and cronyism. For this reason more than any other, these jobs should be up on the block during tough political times.

Could the state government privatize the state fair's operation? Yes. Could they sell some fo the millions of acres of state land they have? Yes. Could the state cut the salaries of the legislature and halt the payment of retirement wages to some of these people whose work histories don't even reach ten years of service? Yes. Instead of these hard decisions, our governor wants to keep the status quo and raise taxes.

In order to get the public to support a tax increase, she wants to show them how bad things can get. You won't be able to buy liquor! No lottery sales can be made! Certain bridges will be shut down! Scary, huh? Now, don't you think a tax increase is better than all that? Not only that, but the governor and her party (which is the majority party in our legislature) wants to force Republicans to vote for the tax increase so that key, vulnerable Democrats can vote no or decline to vote, to help maintain their seats next election!

As a libertarian, I don't care if government shuts down. In fact, I like the idea. Most of the government is doing me harm when they're working, anyway! Still, the governor's gambit has paid off. There will be a tax increase and the only people that will pay for their crime of raising taxes will be fiscally irresponsible Republicans.

I was notified on Friday that I am a non-essential state employee. I was told not to report to work on Monday, unless the budget is resolved. I am to watch the news and check the website at I will be losing even more money to act in the governor's political theater. So far, I've received cuts in my wages of over $6000 in just one year, during Ms. Granholm's tenure. 2005 marked the first year in twenty years that my wages actually dropped from the previous year. Oh well, when the going gets tough, the fat cats circle the wagons!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hsu: Latest in Clinton Body Count?

A mysterious illness, disappearances in the dark of night and allegations of serious corruption involving the Clintons, should come as no surprise any more. The same scenarios have played out numerous times over the past fifteen years with a host of characters. Just Google the Clinton Body Count for some very interesting reading. Really, one can't help coming away from such a visit without being convinced that the Clintons and their people have been involved in some very nefarious activities.

Now, on the verge of Hillary's entry into the Big Leagues, Hsu surfaces and throws more bad publicity her way. Who can be surprised if he suddenly comes down with a mysterious illness that doctors can't seem to explain and which just keeps getting worse? It certainly wouldn't be the first time. Take Ronald Miller, for example. Mr. Miller was preparing to implicate President Clinton's Chief of Staff, Thomas F. McLarty III in Oklahoma-related scandals, in his upcoming testimony before a congressional committee in 1997, when he suddenly became ill with "flu-like" symptoms. He deteriorated and died ten days later, though the cause of death has never been identified. Ricin poisoning was suspected and ruled out, as well as anthrax. Miller had also tape recorded Gene and Nora Lum and turned those tapes over to congressional oversight investigators. The Lums were sentenced to prison for campaign finance violations, using "straw donors" to conceal the size of their contributions to various candidates. This is exactly the strategy currently being alleged in the indictment of famous Dr. Jack Kevorkian attorney, Geoffrey Fieger.

Much like Mother Nature, it just does not seem to pay to piss off Hillary Clinton. The list of casualties is long and the stories are convincing. Conspiracy theories abound about these poor dupes who met their demise after crossing or agreeing to cross the Clintonistas. Consider Jerry Parks, who was murdered gangland style in a hail of bullets while driving in a suburb of Little Rock. Two months earlier, while watching a news broadcast on Vince Foster's apparent suicide, Jerry muttered under his breath in the presence of his son, Gary, "I'm a dead man". His home had been burglarized three months earlier and the only thing stolen was a pair of files on Clinton's sexual escapades during the late 1980's. It seems that Hillary had tired of Bill's philanderings and was about to divorce him in 1988. She hired Jerry Parks to follow him and gather evidence and contacted Vince Foster about writing up the divorce paperwork. It was that evidence which was stolen in the break-in.

Anyway, Fieger and Hsu had better watch their backs. It's not nice to fool Mother Clinton!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Culture of Corruption

I was watching Hannity and Colmes the other night and they were discussing the efforts to reduce earmarks and other slimy congressional behaviors. They had a fellow on from California, U.S. Rep John Campbell (R-CA) who had challenged Mr Murtha (D-PA) over the latest earmarking extravaganza in what was passed as a Defense Spending bill. There were 1337 earmarks worth some 3 Billion dollars in that bill, including $150 Million to Murtha's district. Murtha, of course, vigorously defended not only the earmarks in that bill, but the entire earmarking process, saying that they "go over every single earmark" and that such earmarking legislation amounts to a "competitive bidding process" which results in technology which would be owned by the U.S. I have since been unable to find evidence of any such U.S. owned technology resulting from any of these "competitive bidding processes", though. Sounds a lot like Pelosi's euphemism thing being tried again. Let's not call them earmarks, let's call them "competitive bidding processes", mm-kay?

Now, leaving aside all of the hypocrisy over the newly elected Democrat majority's pledge to clean up congress and provide the most open and honest congress in history, Mr. Murtha's comments are seriously over the top in many other ways. He told a whopper about the nature of the earmarking process itself, he bristled and angrily dismissed the reasonable questions asked by Mr. Campbell and he basically told the American people to "bugger off" if they don't like the way things are done in his House. This guy's behavior is truly outrageous! But the military loves him, right? Not exactly. Military contractors in Pennsylvania love him, though.

But the thing that really got me going in watching the H&C coverage of that event on the House floor, was Alan Colmes's attempt to imply that Republicans think only Democrats are earmarkers. Of course he laid that little charge on Mr. Campbell, who was brave enough to actually come on the show and discuss his actions in the debacle, unlike the earmarking champion, John Murtha. Campbell told Colmes straight-off that earmarking is definitely a bi-partisan problem and that Republicans do it as often as, or maybe more than, Democrats. He followed that up with an interesting point, though. He said that there is a group of congresspeople that are dedicated to ending earmarks-as-usual in the legislature and that they are all...Republicans!

Isn't this the point? Sure, there are congresscritters of all parties out there gaming the system by back-scratching lobbyists, each other, and peddling their influence in oh, so many ways. But it seems as though the only ones seriously challenging this earmarking, pork-barreling, business-as-usual in the congress are...Republicans. Witness the recent attacks on these practices (which, I know, no one has heard about, because it just isn't important to the mainstream media) which have all been produced by a dedicated minority of lawmakers, and note that the only lawmakers with one-hundred percent support for these anti-pork amendments are...Republicans.

The Club for Growth congressional Re-Pork Card shows the records of congressfolks in voting for anti-pork legislation and lists some of the amendments proposed by the anti-porkers against some of the most egregious hunks of swine fat in this year's legislation. Check it out carefully! It clearly details the battle over earmarking and shows who the real reformers are. Of course most of the amendments (49 out of 50) proposed to curtail pork-barrel or earmark spending failed miserably, but at least these courageous legislators tried. These fifty amendments were proposed by John Campbell, Jeff Flake, Jeb Hensarling, Scott Garrett, and David Obey. Obey, the only Democrat, proposed one of the fifty amendments and then proceeded to vote against it! The rest of these Representatives are...Republicans.

So, yeah, the corruption in Congress is a bi-partisan problem but the solution, so far anyway, seems to be purely...Republican!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Opposite of Loser is...

There have been several years of US activity in Iraq for the public to criticize. Much of the criticism is entirely appropriate. Still, it seems that for the last couple of years the Democrat Party has based its entire party platform on the US losing the war. They say we have already lost, that it's become a civil war, that we need to withdraw because our presence is making matters worse, there, etc. All of their energy is focused on getting the US out of Iraq and accepting the military loss that they have already proclaimed. All this because...a US loss is a Bush/Republican loss.

Many snarky Republicans have said over the years that the Democrats want the US to lose in Iraq, and most reasonable people-me included- have said, "No. That can't be true." I think the jury is in on this one, though. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Monday that a strongly positive report on progress on Iraq by Army Gen. David Petraeus likely would split Democrats in the House and impede his party's efforts to press for a timetable to end the war. Good news on our progress from Petraeus would be "a real big problem for us", said the Congressman. Is Mr. Clyburn alone? I think not.

It is absolutely clear that leading Democrats do not want to see any good news coming from Iraq. Even if there is any good news, they'll go out of their way to dispute it. Witness our good friend and ABSCAM bribe ponderer, John (I support the troops!) Murtha
Murtha dismissed the claims of two longtime Iraq War critics who cite improvements in conditions in Iraq. Now if this was a considered, studied and intelligent refutation of flawed statements by the "longtime critics" of the war, I'd say agreeing or disagreeing with Mr. Murtha would be an individual choice, based upon one's opinion of the war and our progress. Since it was, rather, a knee-jerk reaction to some rare good news about the war, I'd say most of us should cry, "Bullshit"!

I don't know if the situation is actually getting better or if it's Global Warming that's assisting the lower death rates. I don't know if the situation in Iraq is stabler and safer as the Brookings Institute observers said, or if they were simply in the right place at the right time. I know what I want to see happen, though. I want to see things get better for the Iraqis and for the US. I want to see more stability and freedom in the Middle East. I want to see a group of sane nations stand up against insanity all around them. I want the US to win the peace in Iraq and then I want our troops to come home as the heroes they truly are.

That's the opposite of losing, in case any Democrats ask you how you'll know when we've won!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Summer's Cauldron

Here are the Lyrics to "Summer's Cauldron", a song written by Andy Partridge of XTC and performed by XTC on the album "Skylarking":

Drowning here in Summer's Cauldron
Under mats of flower lava
Please don't pull me out this is how I would want to go
Breathing in the boiling butter
Fruit of sweating golden inca
Please don't heed my shout I'm relax in the undertow

When Miss Moon lays down
And Sir Sun stands up
Me I'm found floating round and round
Like a bug in brandy
In this big bronze cup
Drowning here in Summer's Cauldron

Trees are dancing drunk with nectar
Grass is waving underwater
Please don't pull me out this is how I would want to go
Insect bomber Buddhist droning
Copper chord of August's organ
Please don't heed my shout I'm relax in the undertow

When Miss Moon lays down
in her hilltop bed
And Sir Sun stands up
raise his regal head
Me I'm found floating round and round
Like a bug in brandy
In this big bronze cup
Drowning here in Summer's Cauldron

Now that's the way I feel on a lazy summer day, floating in my pool, with a cold homebrewed beer in my hand! Yup! And here's the beer I want to be drinking when I next do that:

Summer's Cauldron II (Kolsch)

22 Lbs. Belgian Pils
2 Lbs. German Wheat Malt
.5 Lbs. Belgian Biscuit
.5 Lbs. Flaked Maize
.5 Lbs. Rice Hulls

Mashed (single infusion) at 152 F, for 60 minutes.
Batch Sparged and drew off 11.5 gallons of 1.046 Wort
Boiled 60 Minutes with the following hop additions:
60 minutes-1.5 oz. Hallertau
45 minutes- 1 oz. Hallertau
15 minutes- 1 oz. Hallertau
5 minutes- .5 oz. Hallertau

Irish moss at 10 minutes left in boil.
OG-1.048 FG-1.009
4.7 SRM
5% ABV
23 IBUs

A nice summer-colored, summer-flavored brew!

Kolsch beer is a beer that was originally made to compete with the enormously popular lagers coming out in the late 19th century. It is a top-fermented beer (ale) with a straw color, light alcohol content, crisp and clean palate and a subtle fruity character. It is lightly hopped and fairly dry in finish. The appellation, Kolsch. is protected by the twenty or so breweries in Koln (Cologne) Germany, that make the style, and by the organization they formed, the Kolsch Konvention.

I have been homebrewing for seven years this month. I will be bottling a Belgian Trippel I made several weeks ago today as well as making this wonderful Kolsch described above. Look for more posts about beer as the Michigan Summer Beer Festival will be coming very soon (July 27 and 28th)...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pardon Me

Ok, I don't blame Bush at all for commuting the sentence of "Scooter" Libby. Libby's "crime" will be more than made whole by his $250, 000 fine and probation, not to mention his loss of respect and ability to practice law (as if those two were not otherwise mutually exclusive).

I agree with the decision. What I can't understand is why he hasn't commuted/pardoned a whole bunch of folks that deserve it. The man ain't running for anything anymore. What's he got to worry about?

Thanks to, here are some other worthy people for Bush to pardon/commute...

  • Marsha Cunningham

    Like Kemba Smith, Cunningham, who was arrested in 1997, had no prior offenses. Nor was there any evidence that she had ever participated in a drug deal.

    Yet when police found powder and crack cocaine in the Dallas apartment that Cunningham shared with her boyfriend, and her boyfriend was caught with crack while driving her car, federal mandatory minimums kicked in. Now, Cunningham is serving 15 years in prison.
  • Dane Yirkovsky

    Yirkovsky is serving a 15-year sentence for possession of a single .22-caliber bullet.

    In December 1998 he found this bullet while doing remodeling work for a friend who was giving him a place to stay in exchange for the work. Yirkovsky put the bullet in a box in his bedroom. Later that month, the police found the bullet while searching Yirkovsky's room after a call from his former girlfriend, who claimed he had some of her possessions. Because of Yirkovsky's prior convictions for burglary, federal prosecutors charged him under the Armed Career Criminal Act, although he had not threatened anyone and did not have a gun.
  • Weldon Angelos

    A year ago this week, 24-year-old Angelos was sentenced to 55 years in prison for selling two small bags of marijuana to a police informant. During the transaction, Angelos was carrying a pistol in an ankle holster, although he did not threaten anyone with the weapon. Nonetheless, the law imposed a severe mandatory minimum for gun possession during a drug deal.

    In sentencing Angelos, U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell of Utah, a conservative Republican appointed by President Bush, also ran through the maximum penalties for hijacking an airplane (25 years), a terrorist bombing intending to kill a bystander (20 years), and kidnapping (13 years). The judge noted that just two hours earlier, he had imposed a sentence of 22 years in a case where a man beat a senior citizen to death with a log.

    "Is there a rational basis," Cassell asked, "for giving Mr. Angelos more time than the hijacker, the murderer, the rapist?" Cassell called the 55-year sentence "unjust, cruel, and even irrational" but said that the law left him "no choice."

    Of course, President Bush need not free Angelos immediately—a crime was committed—but he has the power to reduce Angelos' sentence. Surely one mistake is a poor justification for taking away most of a young father's life.
  • Robert Blandford, Diane Huang, David McNab, and Abner Schoenwetter

    Three American seafood dealers and one Honduran lobster-fleet owner are currently doing hard time for importing lobster tails that were the wrong size and that were packaged in clear plastic bags rather than in cardboard boxes. They ran afoul of the Lacey Act, a federal statute that makes it a crime to import fish or wildlife taken "in violation of any foreign law."

    The U.S. government argued that they had broken Honduran law because some of the lobster tails—3 percent, to be exact—were less than five and a half inches long, and because a Honduran regulation required that the lobster tails be packed in boxes. Yet Honduran officials testified that no laws had been violated.

    Nonetheless, Blandford, McNab (the Honduran national), and Schoenwetter, three small-business men with no previous criminal records, were sentenced in 2001 to eight-year terms. Their "partner in crime," Huang, got off easy: two years' incarceration for the mother of two young children.
Oh, and also the two border guards, but they're already getting plenty of press, aren't they?


Can anyone imagine any of today's serious candidates for President making the pledge elicited in the title above...and meaning it? That pledge made by the fathers of this country, the 56 signatories of the Declaration of Independence would melt the tongues of the present politicians that mean to serve this nation. I cannot imagine our present politicos risking their livelihoods, property and their lives on anything, much less their sacred honor (something worth far less than was reflected in the signing of that most illustrious of documents).

When I make those disparaging remarks about our present crop of politicians, make no mistake, I do not spare Republicans. The current rage among conservatives is Fred Thompson, an actor for the most part. I do not for a minute expect that man to be the savior of this country, as the patriots who sacrificed their all did to build this great nation. In fact, I don't expect Fred Thompson to be much of anything. Perhaps he will be a preferable evil to Hillary Clinton. If so, he will probably be huzzahed by the great majority of right-thinking conservatives in this country-and perhaps deservedly so. They need something to believe in after the current dipstick's shenanigans (can you say No Child Left Behind, Harriet Myers, Shamnesty, a broken veto pen, and on and on and on...?).

What can one expect out of today's politicians? Can one expect a politician to be honest, self-sacrificing and dedicated to serving the people of this country, in this day-and-age? Well, certainly one might be able to find such a rare soul in our population, but could one expect that rare soul to make it to the ballot of the first presidential primary? I think you see my point.

I don't trust Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani. Of course, I trust my trash collector more than I trust John Edwards, Barak Obama or Hillary Clinton. Obama's raised a lot of money and it has been honestly raised by small donors. That's no mean feat. Still, the man would do the wrong thing for this country, nearly every single time he chooses to act (whether he acts honestly or selfishly means little when his honest action is simply wrong). Hillary is nothing but a power-hungry pol, willing to do anything to get elected, including paying off those who assist her in any way possible, once in office. How could you expect anything else from someone who has already shown her willingness to do this as a first lady and a Senator?

I will vote for the honest politician that agrees most with my vision of the best direction for this country. If the politician is not honest (and I can detect bullshit from a mile away, thanks to twenty-three years of working with convicts), I will not vote for them. I don't care who's running against them and I don't care who will win if I vote for a third party candidate, instead. Simple as that. I'm voting for the one that honestly wants what I want for this country and my children and future grandchildren. Right now, that's Ron Paul. He says what he believes, not what he thinks will get him elected. Can you say that about any of the other candidates?

I could see Ron Paul chancing his fortune, life and sacred honor for the protection of this country. I can't say that about any other candidate at this point. Maybe somebody will step up and surprise me, but I doubt it very much.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Good Day for Americans

The defeat of the Shamnesty Bill was a great victory for all Americans. This nation could ill afford-just economically-another Bush-Kennedy collaboration! And this one would have far-outdistanced the NCLB previous collaboration in both monetary costs and the costs associated with decreased security. The efforts of thousands of conservative bloggers and activists defeated this bill, make no mistake. "Kill Bill 2, the sequel" was launched by grassroots conservative organizations and individual bloggers. Just one such group, "Grassfire .org",
made millions of contacts to the Senate.

Grassfire actions included:
  • Presenting nearly 750,000 petitions to key Senate leaders
  • Over one million contacts with Senators including:
  • Personal visits to Senate offices
  • Hundreds of thousands of phone calls - contributing to a complete overload shutdown of the Senate phone system
  • Hundreds of thousands of faxes.
And that is just one group dedicated to winning this battle. There were many more. I thank them all. Heck they even convinced Debbie Stabenow to vote against the bill!

I see an awakening of the people occurring in this country. We don't trust what politicians tell us anymore, whether they be Democrats or Republicans. We won't get fooled again, again! Bush tried to ram this incredibly expensive (in all ways) measure down the throats of the electorate, arm-in-arm with his politico-pal, Ted Kennedy and we shoved back! There's no limit to what a fired up grassroots group can do when they want to. What's next on the agenda?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Tough Luck Wings!

Well it wasn't to be for the Red Wings this year but it was a fine ride while it lasted. A tough loss in game 5, especially considering a bullshit penalty called on Datsyuk in the final minute that allowed the Ducks to score on the PP, just took the air out of the Wings. They lost it in OT and went on to a lackluster performance for two periods in game 6 which they finally lost as they ran out of time to tie the game. Give credit to the Anaheim Ducks for fighting every minute of that sixth game! The Wings did not play inspired hockey until it was too late.

Now I'm reduced to rooting for the Pistons. They've been pretty dominating in their NBA march to the Finals and now only need to win two more games against the Cleveland Cavaliers, to face off in the Eastern Conference Finals. As I've said before, it's tough being a sports fan in the Detroit area!

All of the Detroit fans want one thing more than any other this year, though, and that's a greatly improved Lions. I won't hold my breath on that one, but there are some good looking changes.

On the beer front, I decided not to take the BJCP exam last week, as I wanted to watch the Red Wings game and I didn't feel I was totally prepared for the tough exam. I'll take it the next time it is given, though. I did visit twelve breweries in one day, on the 14th of this month, though! The pic at top is just one of the photos taken during this trip. It was taken at Ann Arbor's Grizzly Peak. We wanted to visit twenty breweries but a pint at each one just proved to be too much for my delicate beer drinking abilities.

So many breweries, so little time!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What a great time of year!

I'm really quite busy these days. I will be attending the World Expo of Beer in Frankenmuth, Michigan, today. Since I judged for the competition, I want to see what the winners were and especially, the Best of Show! Tomorrow I will be taking the BJCP exam (during the Wings game...). Wish me luck!

Tomorrow the Wings play the fifth game of the Conference Finals against the nasty, brutish Anaheim Ducks. The series is all tied, though the play of the Wings has improved steadily, as befits a championship caliber team. Pronger missed the last game due to a suspension, rather the the normal way he's missed the other games (by just not being an important factor!). Ducks fans are all fired up about his return, supposedly rested, fit and angry. I hope he is angry. It will be his anger that sends the Ducks into repeated penalty-kill situations, giving the very potent Wings PP a chance to show the Ducks what fer!

It has been reported that Pronger was upset at the officiating, especially the suspension handed down against him for boarding Homer, along with fellow goon Rob Niedermayer. Tough luck, buttercup! Don't hit from behind and don't lead to the head with your elbows! The five inch differential between the two players had nothing to do with the nature of the hit, either. Pronger aimed for the head and that's that!

All-in-all, this has been an exciting series. I do agree with Pronger that the officiating has been inconsistent. But that's no different from any of the regular-season games. If the refs begin calling all of the cheap obstruction penalties that Anaheim commits, this series could be over in two games, but don't bet on that!

For my money, the Ducks best player has been Getzlaf, the 22 year-old phenom forward. Even Selanne has glowing words for this kid. Still, none of the Ducks is as impressive as the young Detroit stars, like Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Fillpula. Look to these rising stars to raise their level of play even higher in the remaining few games.

As noted in the article from the Globe and Mail above, Detroit coach Mike Babcock muses that the best teams get better with each game in a series. If he's right-and he is-the Red Wings are looking at the Cup Finals in two games.

Go Wings!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Springing Forth!

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Shakespeare's Sonnet XVIII

Now it just may be that this little ditty is one of the greatest ode's to beauty e'er writ. The only question is as to whether it refers to the beauty of the subject (fair lady?) or to the written ode itself. The poem tells us that beauty is fleeting in all of its manifestations. All the more precious! Of course, as the years since the poem's writing have shown, the words themselves endure.

The photo is mine. I took it the other day in my front yard. The foreground is a McIntosh Apple bough in full bloom, while the background is my gorgeous Birch tree! I assure you there were no shortages of honey bees in the four apple trees in my front yard that day!

Spring is my favorite season. I love the sights and smells of nature bringing forth her new life. It always brings a hopefulness that all things can be reborn aright. Sorry, I missed getting a pic of the Cherry tree, but Washington DC has my little tree beat all over, so you could easily miss it. But I'll place the four apple trees in my yard against any bouquet you care to show me. They are gorgeous!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Go Wings (and Pistons and Tigers)!

In spite of the terror of Joe Thornton (whose aggressive play reminds me a bit too much of 1995's New Jersey Devil's defensive standout, Scott Stevens), the Red Wings are poised with the momentum necessary to win this tough series against the very big, very tough, defensive-minded but offensively talented, San Jose Sharks. It's been a see-saw battle in the second round for the Winged Wheelers, with momentum changing game-by-game, if not period-by-period. I am officially in playoff fever now, though. I've even taken a short break from my beer-related thinking to post some thoughts on this playoff series. Wow! I must be suffering from playoff fever!

Lang, the enigmatic forward with the quick and accurate snap shot, finally scored a big goal early Thursday morning! About time, Robert! Bertuzzi, one of the meanest big men in the NHL, has not done much of anything, and even less of what he's done has been smart. Bertuzzi also has been one of the sweetest puck-handling of all NHL big men and in this series-in fact especially in the last game-he has not been able to keep a puck on his stick for two seconds. Get with it Bert! The Wings need a fired up and physical Todd Bertuzzi in this series, where they're outmatched in size and meanness, to win. But more importantly, they need the surprise deftness with which this guy can stick-handle and score. That's totally missing so far. I hope to see it today.

The Wings have the speed to change the game on these rough and ready Sharks. They have the experience. They have the goaltending in Hasek. They have the four-line arsenal and the puck-possession to wear down the Sharks' fine defense. So far, though the games are low-scoring affairs, the Wings have played inconsistently. The last game they lost, in San Jose, they came out flying and scored the first goal, outshooting the Sharks in the first period by oh, 20 to 7, not counting the ringer off the post or the several blocked shots and missed nets. They eased up a bit in the last half of the second and played lackluster in the third. That cannot continue! This team is the better team. Even the Sharks know that.

As Scotty Bowman said recently: "Whatever happened to the new NHL"? Yeah they're calling all the cheap non-hooks and even a few obstruction penalties, but the truth is, the Sharks obstruct-within the limits of what the "new NHL" allows-on every play. Watch as they go after the puck in tandem, and block, one-for-the-other, on puck movement and puck takeaways. They hit the Red Wings players long after the player has passed the puck or sent it into the offensive zone. They cross-check the players playing the puck, regularly and their goalie whacks every Red Wing that comes near him. I guess that's the new NHL, eh?

To be fair, there are many admirable qualities to this Sharks team. Thornton is a monster. He is big and strong and has the uncanny ability to get the puck in the right board area, hold it long enough to see a streaking left winger come towards the net, and deliver a perfect one-timer pass to that winger for an excellent scoring chance. Credit him for many of the scoring chances the Sharks get. That said, why is it the Wings give him so much time with the puck in that spot? That must improve. Also the Sharks seem to have an uncanny ability to block shots and clearing passes. They have especially been good at the latter. The Wings ability to clear their zone and handle the puck better in these crucial circumstances must also improve.

I believe the Wings will win this series but to do so, they must improve in those areas. Thornton will not go away and neither will Grier. Grier's been fairly quiet so far but had his best game Wednesday night. The Sharks are for real. The Wings are better but need to carry the play again, like they did Wednesday night, for three periods to win. No lapses and no stupid penalties by Bertuzzi. The puck possession of the Wings could be the thing that wears down the Sharks' defense like it did in the last game. In that case, costly turnovers proved deadly and the game was won. Let's hope the series goes the same way.

Datyuk and Zetterberg will combine for some goals today. Lang could improve on his lackluster performance, as well. Holmstrum can be the goal crease pest with the uncanny hand-eye coordination that baffled the Sharks last game. And Hasek could be the stone wall he needs to be. Today's game will be the game that turns the tide of the series. It may be the game where more than three goals are scored for one team. If the Sharks open up at all, that could be the crack in the defense the Wings are looking for, but don't count on it from a Ron Wilson coached team. Wings in six!

I don't even want to think about the other two teams in Detroit playing right now, because this is the most important series of all to me. Still, I will say that the Pistons series against the Chicago Bulls should be another nailbiter, especially due to the defensive play of former Detroiter, Ben Wallace. I look to the Pistons to win it but it could go either way. As for the Tigers, they are playing well and Sheffield is starting to hit. If the pitching remains solid, they could contend again. It's good to be a Dteroit fan right now! If the Lions could improve, we'd be in sports heaven. Why didn't the Lions draft a top-rated Offensive lineman in the draft? Oh well, I guess we really needed another good wide receiver, since we let Mike Williams go...Matt Millen, you better improve a whole lot this year or you might get dismembered by a rowdy mob of Detroit Lions' fans come Winter.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Big Brew

The Lapeer Area Brewers brewed up a big IPA last month at my house (you know, the one that needs painting) and we are scheduled to bottle that rascal today. It has turned out quite well, if my few little tastings-done during the times the beer was racked into new fermenters or the gravity was checked-are any good indication. It should be an intensely hoppy strong (7%) American IPA.

Yesterday I brewed up a Northern English Brown Ale that is currently fermenting away in my dining room (which also could use a coat of paint). Brewing has become pretty automatic for me lately as I made my 27th All-grain batch yesterday.

On May 5th the American Homebrewing Community celebrates Big Brew, the main holiday of homebrewers. It is customary for homebrewers to brew on that day and to have a simultaneous toast at noon to the homebrewers of the world. Brewpubs and microbreweries all over the country assist in these celebrations, so find one in your area that does and go meet some homebrewers. Not all of them are like my suburban, "docker-clad homies" from Lapeer. They run the gamut of different individuals around the country, with one common characteristic: they love brewing and are happy to talk about it. The homebrewers I know are some of the nicest people you'll ever want to meet. So go do it!

Note: I looked at the photos from the last post and I don't see a single person wearing dockers. I also note that these people, with a couple of exceptions, aren't really suburban yuppie types, either. But, what do I know? Or care?

One final note. Tomorrow will be the second anniversary of this blog. I posted my first blog article on 4-15-2005! Boy, does time fly! I've kept up to my promise to post infrequently, at best, and I intend to continue that tradition.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Things Beer

I have been virtually awash these days in all things beery. I started a brewing club in the Lapeer area of my home state of Michigan. We are called, ingeniously, The Lapeer Area Brewers, or LAB for short. In addition to this beer-related activity, I have also enrolled in and begun attending a beer appreciation and sensory evaluation class. What, you may ask, is a sensory evaluation class? Well, my oh-so curious friends, a sensory evaluation class is a way for a supreme beer geek (the Instructor, not me) to actually con thirty or so people into listening to him drone on and on about beer for three hours each week for five weeks. Either that or its a class that helps one to appreciate the various levels of complexity in the beer we taste and to evaluate and identify those tastes and their origins, as well as the history of the beer and its related geographical minutiae. One or the other. I'm not sure which yet, because I've only taken two classes. Tell you what: I'll let you know in a few weeks, OK?

In addition to this, I am preparing to take the Beer Judge Certification Program's certification test. This test is tough! Just to give you an idea of the toughness of this test, I'll describe it in all of its glorious, geeky, boringness. It's 10 essay questions on beer. This includes beer-making, beer history, regional styles and their history, classic style examples, the judging program itself and much more. The ten questions should take about three hours to finish. Yes, three hours! These questions are worth 70% of your grade. Then there are four beers to evaluate according to style. The tough part is there are no descriptor definitions on the score sheets. This means you have to have memorized the style guidelines for all of the beers. If you've clicked on the hyperlink and seen the score sheet, you will have seen one of these score sheets and the items on the left are the items that are missing from the testing score sheets. The style guidelines are different for each beer and the descriptor definitions all apply to the unique style guidelines for each beer. Whew!

To give you a better idea of how tough the test is, I know a professional brewer, who has brewed several medal-winning commercial beers at the Great American Beer Festival, who has failed to pass this test three times. Basically, one needs to study the material to pass. Period.

Just prior to posting this article, I did a little homework for my beer class. I taste-tested several commercial beers for the next class. I tasted Bell's Porter as an example of the Robust Porter category, Hacker-Pschorr Weisse as an example of the German Weizen/Weissbier category and Victory Hop Devil as an example of the American IPA category. These are listed as prime commercial examples of each of their respective styles. I am unhappy to have been unable to find good commercial examples of three of the styles I wanted to try: Baltic Porter, Imperial IPA and English IPA. Still the best beer store in my county was able to provide me with good examples of all of the other styles between 11 and 15. Note to those who have very good beer stores in their area (Camojack, for instance), I couldn't find any of the listed commercial examples of English IPAs, Baltic Porters or Imperial IPAs! Feel sorry for me. Feel very sorry!

My new Homebrew Club also brewed a club batch of strong American IPA on Saturday. It was a ten gallon batch of near 7% beer with a very hoppy character (106 IBUs). The pictures at the top of the page are of the brew club (I took the pictures, so am not pictured) on the job. I'll let you all know how that beer turned out in a few weeks...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The 1/2 Hour News Hour

Of course liberals are funny but what about conservatives? Can a satirical news show with a conservative point-of-view make America laugh? The new faux news show on Fox News Channel, The 1/2 Hour News Hour (Shades of the CBC show, "This Hour Has 22 Minutes") is a new attempt to make funny with some conservative-based political humor. I think it's high time for such an offering. I just hope it is well-written and, above all, funny.

The show is executive-produced by Joel Surnow, who created the wildly successful Fox thriller, "24", and features cameo appearances by Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. The article linked to above, from the Washington Post's Tom Shales, indicates (albeit, begrudgingly) that the show is funny. If he thinks it's funny, it's probably hilarious, especially to conservatives.

My suggestion? Hire Scott Ott to provide some of the writing for the show, as well as some other, established satirists with a right-leaning political bent. They could also get conservative actors-yes, there are some-to come on for cameos and short bits to boost ratings and provide some star power. Conservative politicians with good senses of humor could make appearances, also. Finally, the show should make sure to poke fun at conservatives as well as liberals. Sure, liberals are easy targets and they have the most material to work with but there are plenty of conservatives that would be good fodder, as well. It would make the show seem more even-handed and would probably make it more popular, too.

The show debuts tomorrow night at Ten. I'll be watching, how about you?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Terror-Free Oil

I never buy gas at Citgo stations because of the money going largely to the Venezuelan government and Chavez. Up until now that was the extent of my politically-based decision making in regards to oil and gas purchases. There is a better alternative: Terror-Free Oil. Somebody had the bright idea of starting a gas station that sells only oil purchased from non-terrorist-supporting/non-Middle East states, and advertising the status of that gasoline as a marketing ploy. They also provide a percentage of the station's profits to anti-terrorism efforts and have a green/alternative agenda, supported from the profits. I got the info from a Reason article by Katherine Mangu-Ward.

The only Terror-Free gas station available now is in Omaha, Nebraska. If I could find one where I live, I would buy my gas there. If I could swing the money to invest in a new franchise, I'd do so, as well. In the meantime, check out the website for info on which gas stations buy oil from terror-supporting states and from the Middle East, and which do not. It might help you make an informed decision. I really love this idea! I hope the idea works and catches on!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Park Bench Mutations

Much of the power of the groundswell that was the Leftist Movement in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s was composed of the environmental movement. This aspect of the movement, which was otherwise considered largely political (or even, more accurately, one-dimensionally anti-war), was nowhere more powerful than in the music of the day. The Rock albums of the sixties are filled with paeans to the environmentalist notions of the time. Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Guess Who, and others nearly made a career of lamenting the damage being done to our environment, while bemoaning the happy, faultless state of peace that they claimed was our native population's legacy. Notwithstanding the error of that silly Rousseauean vision, it is interesting to note the Luddite character of this commonly held and romantically revered view of the world and our place in it.

This vision requires a couple of precursors. One, that mankind is a non-natural destroyer of the world environment, causing damage to a system that, without him, would exist naturally and blissfully for all of the other creatures and flora of the planet. The end-result of this view is that it would be best for the planet and its inhabitants if mankind simply ceased to exist. The other precursor is that the principle fault of man in his existence on this planet lies in his development and use of technology. In this view, held by a range of thinkers from hippies to the Unabomber, it is technology that hurts the environment and a return to less technologically advanced methods of making a living would be beneficial to the environment. Of course both of these views are tragically flawed, but they have powerful, romantic associations that make them attractive to many people. Who can deny the draw of the pastoral, unfettered by modern machines, view of the "state of nature"? Isn't it this romantic notion that fuels the hiking, camping and other niche industries?

Many of the ills of the modern world can be attributed to technology. Gun violence, obesity, nutritional related diseases, pollution, global warming and many other problems can be easily traced to an origin of modern technology. It is also true, however, that technology provides many cures for otherwise destructive situations and its usefulness far outweighs its destructiveness.

During the Movement, many of the proponents of change (i.e., revolution) were also caught up in the sexual and pharmacological aspects of the changing times. Over the course of what many felt was a "back to the earth" movement, a significant portion of the participants fell off the bus, due to drug problems and depravities associated with the new, more libidinous lifestyles.

Today, we find that the core of the Movement is still environmentalist in nature. The overtly political factions were peeled off into mainstream political parties or just dropped out. The "back to the earthers", though they may have been co-opted a bit in their need to continue in life and join the "work-a-day world", is still concerned with our pollution of the environment and mistreatment of animals. They may not have remained on the commune but they carry much of the same values with them in their daily lives.

I look at the song, "Thrasher", by Neil Young as a sort of history of this movement in the country. I have no evidence to back it up, but it fits nicely with the lyrics. I think there's little doubt about the drug abuse connection, but more obscure are the references to those seeking a new direction and the natural allusions of planting and harvesting. Obviously, the thrasher is a malignant force, though harvesting is not necessarily so. Is it the machine that's bad? Perhaps Neil should have been Amish?

Are his "companions" those in the Movement, who drifted into drug abuse, debauchery and the love of technology? Is the "light of day" the modern reality of technology? Certainly the reference to "the aimless blade of science" seems to be. Slashing the pearly gates seems to me to be the idea that pharmacology opened up heaven to anyone who wanted to use the hallucinogenic drugs that became available during the sixties. "Burned my credit card for fuel" indicates a return to primitivism. His companions had the best selection but became park bench mutations, lost in crystal canyons. Their motel waits with heated pool and bar, but Neil doesn't want any of it (he says). I really like some of the phrasing, here and the song itself is beautiful. I guess my interest in nature makes me susceptible to the lure of this philosophical view. I know I was enamored of Thoreau and Walden's Pond, as a child. I always wanted to learn to live off the land.

Anyway, read the lyrics and tell me what you think. The song is from "Rust Never Sleeps".

They were hiding behind hay bales,
They were planting in the full moon
They had given all they had for something new
But the light of day was on them,
They could see the thrashers coming
And the water shone like diamonds in the dew.

And I was just getting up, hit the road before its light
Trying to catch an hour on the sun
When I saw those thrashers rolling by,
Looking more than two lanes wide
I was feelin like my day had just begun.

Where the eagle glides ascending
Theres an ancient river bending
Down the timeless gorge of changes
Where sleeplessness awaits
I searched out my companions,
Who were lost in crystal canyons
When the aimless blade of science
Slashed the pearly gates.

It was then I knew Id had enough,
Burned my credit card for fuel
Headed out to where the pavement turns to sand
With a one-way ticket to the land of truth
And my suitcase in my hand
How I lost my friends I still dont understand.

They had the best selection,
They were poisoned with protection
There was nothing that they needed,
Nothing left to find
They were lost in rock formations
Or became park bench mutations
On the sidewalks and in the stations
They were waiting, waiting.

So I got bored and left them there,
They were just deadweight to me
Better down the road without that load
Brings back the time when I was eight or nine
I was watchin my mamas t.v.,
It was that great grand canyon rescue episode.

Where the vulture glides descending
On an asphalt highway bending
Thru libraries and museums, galaxies and stars
Down the windy halls of friendship
To the rose clipped by the bullwhip
The motel of lost companions
Waits with heated pool and bar.

But me Im not stopping there,
Got my own row left to hoe
Just another line in the field of time
When the thrashers comes, Ill be stuck in the sun
Like the dinosaurs in shrines
But Ill know the time has come
To give whats mine.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Fifty Years Ago

I just turned fifty, so I thought I'd post a bit of history that interested me (since I am now officially history, myself!). So here goes...

Fifty years ago, a Muslim terrorist organization waged a campaign against the imperialist Western nation that had ruled the country for some hundred years. The campaign had lasted for four years and was insanely brutal. The terrorists used bombs and the killing of innocents as their primary weapon. They claimed they were the true patriots of the country and were against the foreign occupiers. They were largely financed by other countries who had specific global political reasons for their support. The terrorists wanted an Islamist state and the Western "occupiers" wanted peace and stability. Clearly, the people of this country were better off with the foreign occupiers who had brought modern medicine and economic prosperity to the country which was poor beyond Western understanding.

The ruling imperialists fought this war against the terrorists with great vigor. In 1957, they had 400,000 troops in the country waging war against the extremists. The cost in 1957 dollars was $4 million a day. More than 55,000 military and civilian lives had been claimed in the conflict. Much like the present Muslim terrorist conflicts, the primary victims of the Muslim extremists were fellow Muslims. Even in the home country of the colonialists, the bulk of the victims of terrorist attacks were Muslims.

The country was a Third World outpost for the colonial power, rich in oil and strategically placed for military purposes. News reports of the time used the word, "terrorist" to describe the rebels who fought against the colonial power. Bombings and the massacres of civilians who aided the colonialists or refused to fight them were common. In one such incident, all of the male members of a village were slaughtered, for their loyalty to the colonial power. Three hundred boys and men were killed and mutilated. Only one survivor was found, who related how the rebels had gunned down the male civilians with a complete absence of mercy.

Fifty years later, we are seeing this macabre dance played out again and again. When will it stop? In 1957, the imperialist "occupiers" were the French. The Arab terrorists were located in Algeria. Today, Algeria has been free of the colonialists for over forty years. The socialist government has been largely military-ruled for the entire time of their independence. Algeria would have been a modern, secular democracy, had the French won the war against the terrorists. That was not to be, however, and the result has been disastrous. It remains poor, violent and war-torn.

I don't know about you, but not even considering the would-be Millenialist Bomber, Ahmed Ressam's Algerian citizenship, this doesn't make me optimistic for the future of Iraq or any other Middle Eastern country.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

THE Auto Show!

I'm sitting here at the computer, composing a post about my trip to Detroit this morning to visit the North American International Auto Show, sipping a homebrewed ESB and diggin' on some awesome tunes, courtesy of Motor City Josh. Meanwhile, I'm composing an exam to make the 17 students in my college class just miserable! Life is Goooood!

Anyway, this was my umpteenth time at the real car show, the Motor City car show, having lived in Detroit or near there for most of my years. I had a great time! I took my son, Beerme3, who is just about to turn 20, next week and he seemed to have a good time as well.

Last week I got a cool digital camera so I could take some pics and send them to my other son, Beerme2, who lives in Atlanta. He likes cars alot! So I took a bunch of photos and sent him a few. The pics at the top are of Beerme3 in a Mitsubishi Eclipse and a cool, GM concept car, called the "Efijy". Retro with a twist or two!

If anyone reading this has never been to the Detroit Auto Show, you're missing out! It is lots of fun to check out what's new, what's being planned and what all the newest gadgets are. See ya next year!

I have a companion blog at Multiply, which is kind of like MySpace, but less popular (sorry, that's my style). Anyway, I can post music and photos and videos, there, so if you're inclined, check it out at Brewmiker's Tavern
I promise to post a few more pictures there when I get the chance!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Medical Marijuana

Among the things that I frequently criticize the Bush administration for is their dogged determination to continue the WOD (War on Drugs), despite the paucity of evidence for its effectiveness. Add to that fault the flagrant disdain for "states' rights" shown by much of this federal anti-drug action and you've got a federal government that worries me.

On Wednesday, the federal government rode down on 11 legal medical marijuana distributors in Los Angeles. They confiscated the product and detained several people present, though did not make any arrests. It would be reasonable to assume they also confiscated customer data, as well. Hat tip to Radley Balko and his The Agitator blog for this news and for all of the excellent information he presents with such wit and accuracy.

Unlike most people in this country, I believe all drugs should be legal for adults. I am aware that the consequences this might have but am certain the overall effect would be preferable to our current practice of prohibition. But even if though this view may be a minority view, the support for decriminalization of marijuana-or the legalization of it for medical purposes-is far more widespread. I know several people who've told me that marijuana is the only drug they used that had an affect on their appetite, while going through chemotherapy. Other drugs were either ineffective or had unacceptable side-effects.

As a law enforcement officer for over twenty years, I have seen the adverse effects of drugs on people and society. The fact is, though, that the adverse effects of the prohibition of drugs has been even worse. Many other law enforcement officers are aware of the problems with drug prohibition and are speaking out on the subject more and more frequently.It has become common practice for police agencies to perform even routine warrant services with the support of a full SWAT team, resulting in several unnecessary deaths and "wrong house" disasters. The current law in Michigan has changed significantly over the years as a direct result of the war on drugs, to the point now, that a person can be stopped for a driving infraction (or the appearance of a driving infraction), deemed by a police officer to be under the influence (by a series of extremely subjective "sobriety tests", of dubious validity), and forced to submit to a blood test at the risk of arrest and drivers license restriction. If the blood test shows any concentration of marijuana, the charge is Driving Under the Influence of drugs. This result does not depend upon the driver's actual sobriety but on the presence of a prohibited substance in his blood; one that may have ceased affecting his driving skills as long ago as one month!

The prison population is surging in this country, due partly to the tough enforcement of drug laws. While only about one percent of the prisoners in this country are serving time for only the use and distribution of marijuana, nearly ten percent of the probationers are serving probation for it. When you add in those who were sent back to prison for marijuana use, the numbers become rather high, indeed(pardon the pun). Far more marijuana-users are dealt with in the kangaroo-like misdemeanor courts, paying the very beast that works so hard at destroying their lives. For example, when a person is charged with these drug misdemeanors, they are most likely to be offered a plea, which they will most often accept, guilty or not, because the cost of fighting it is more severe than accepting the punishment. The result? Probation and continuous drug testing supplied by a private corporation that makes millions off these miserable marijuana smokers (yeah, they pay the their right to be pulled into a drug testing facility at some bureaucrat's whim!). Add to that numerous other fees and fines and you see the individual is swamped by the government practice of prohibiting a simple plant. Sure the business is good for criminal attorneys and the county and state prosecutors' offices but the money is supplied by low-wage earning people who broke a very minor law. Usually the treatment they receive makes it more difficult for them to get a job and be more productive, causing further criminal activity. It is a cottage industry that supplies its own customers!

But what of the trouble this drug causes, you might ask. Have you recently seen any marauding bands of marijuana smokers rioting in the streets? How about a marijuana smoker who must rob the local liquor store to pay for the drug? Nah. The fact is that marijuana smokers do not normally engage in criminal activity, other than their pot use. Now, you might see a few breaking New York's ban on the consumption of trans fats, but that's about the extent of the marijuana-users' threat to society.

Finally, the fact is that the people of California have voted to allow the use of medical marijuana in their state. It is certainly their prerogative to regulate this practice as they see fit but it is unconscionable for the federal government to arrest California residents for an act that is legal under California law! What's next for the federal golem? Ignore the recent laws in several states outlawing the seizure of private property, for another private person's gain, via eminent domain? How about asserting federal law over state law for the criminal sanctions applied to certain crimes such as Criminal Sexual Conduct? Some states' have far more restrictive penalties for the sex abuse of children than the federal laws prescribe. This slippery slope is more than apparent.

It is apparent this administration (and the federal government, in general) is expanding the power of the federal government in more than one way. This exercise in federalism should be denounced by all right-thinking Americans. Let the states and the localities decide what their own laws should be and insist the federal government leave them alone to live as they want!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Twenty Four

Twenty-Four hours in a day, twenty-four beers in a case: coincidence? I think not!

I decided to write about the television show that seems to be really catching fire this season: "24".
First off, disclaimer: I've been a huge fan of the show since it's inception, having watched every episode and I actually own seasons two and four (Christmas presents from my sons). Jack Bauer kicks ass! I haven't talked much about my enjoyment of the show because, frankly, it's a guilty pleasure. The show is hugely implausible on almost every level. It's blow 'em up, shoot-first, ask-questions-later- fare at its best, though.

The show follows twenty-four hours in the day of Counter Terrorism Unit agent, Jack Bauer, on a real-time basis; that is, each hour of the show is an hour of time in Jack's day. That in itself makes it one of the more unique television shows in history. But 24 is so much more.

The first season aired in November 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks, making it about as relevant as any TV show on the set. It deals primarily with the government response to terrorist acts. Each season, a new cataclysmic terrorist threat arises to test the government's ability to respond, and Jack's ability to outwit the bad guys.

Recently, the show has been the talk of the nation, as I've heard Rush Limbaugh dedicate his show today to discussing last night's season 6 opener, as well as Scott Ott suggesting Jack Bauer might be an effective negotiator for Bush's Iranian problems. I've also heard critics lately saying that the show is a thinly disguised plot to bolster chauvinist, war-mongering attitudes among the electorate. Well, if you want to see the kind of blood and gore, veins in your teeth movies that I loved as a youth, in which John Wayne and Clint Eastwood saved the day and turned down the girl, 24 is just right.

The only criticism I have with the show is the unrealistic aspects tend to bother me. Most of us can't get a cell phone to work for us half the time but Jack Bauer can download satellite images and video on his phone, while the clock ticks on a nuclear device certain to destroy Los Angeles, in seconds. In yesterday's episode, there were a number of implausible situations and actions that detracted from my enjoyment of the show. I would predict, based on the opener, a lot more of the same this season. It seems, as I aired my fears to my wife before last night's show, anything that becomes popular becomes cheaper. Oh, but I'll be watching. You can bet on that!

One thing more: The two hour premier last night went by faster than any show I've ever watched. That says a lot about the show. It's a fast-paced, action-packed thriller, every week. The two-hour second episode airs tonight at 8PM. I'm teaching class, so the wife has been strongly encouraged to tape it for me...