Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: August 9, 2011

WI recall elections

Today was the day of the recall elections in Wisconsin that government unions and their allied thugs and lefties set up to wrest control of the state senate from Republicans, in order to keep the taxpayer supported gravy train rolling. Sadly, they were largely successful in their attempt to overturn the last general election, and return reliable union pawns to the statehouse.

Of the six Republican state senators recalled, only three are now projected to defeat the recall, while two democrats are projected to win, and, at the time of this writing, one seat is undecided, but with the Republican with a slight lead. Even if that seat flips to the Democrats unions, the resulting Senate composition will be tied 16-16 between Democrats and Republicans.The most likely result at this point, however, is that it will end up 17-15 Republican in the state Senate.

In either event, that essentially means that Gov. Walker’s reforms will remain in place. As a policy matter, irrespective of the results for the individual senators,  the final result is tons of union money spent to accomplish nothing of substance. I hope that at least spending that $20-30 million felt good. I certainly feel good knowing that the unions no longer have it in their coffers.

It should go without saying that government employee unions are an anathema to a free society, and should be universally banned. Free market unions, of course, are an entirely different story. It’s funny to remember that in my lifetime, both the Left and the Right—and unions, for that matter—were opposed to government employee unions. Of course, that was before government unions became wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Democratic Party.

In the larger sense, of course, this is all pointless posturing, as the welfare state is essentially dead, or will be soon enough. That ride is pulling into the terminal, as I have explained in some detail previously.

~
Dale Franks
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The golden nectar (Updated)

Apparently, I’ve been far too depressing. Fine. Forget the collapse of the dollar, hyperinflation, exploding debt, moribund economy, etc., etc. I mean, why be so down?  In the long run, we’re all dead, anyway, right? So why worry? Let’s talk about something we can all enjoy, then: Beer.

Actually, not beer, as such. I generally don’t drink plain old beer.  If you enjoy the watery, bland flavor of of your Michelob Light or Miller Genuine Draft, then knock yourself out.  I wouldn’t touch any of that stuff, though. I like to go deeper into the catalog, and enjoy the stout, the porter, and the fantastic subset of beer known as India Pale Ale, commonly known as IPA.  I’ve actually been on a tasting rotation of several different IPAs in the past few weeks, and I thought I’d jot down a few notes about them. And, living in what is probably the epicenter of craft brewing in the United States, I have lots of choices.

Stone IPA

Stone Brewery, which is conveniently located several blocks from my house, has an excellent reputation, and they have some great products, particularly the Imperial Russian Stout, and the Oatmeal Chocolate stout. and they’re probably best known for their Arrogant Bastard Ale.  You’d expect the Stone IPA to be similarly enjoyable, but…I dunno.  It really seems like a bland and uninspired IPA to me.  It has just enough hoppy bitterness to be an IPA, but considering the premium price, and the quality of Stone’s other offerings, it should be better.  There’s literally nothing about the Stone IPA that sets it apart.

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

Ballast Point is another San Diego brewery, and the Sculpin IPA is very hard to find.  If you do find it, I suggest you grab all of it you can, as it’s produced in small batches, and anything other than the 22oz singles are hard to find. As are the 22oz singles. This is a very complex IPA. The hoppy bitterness has a hint of pine, and the finish is complex and spicy. This is an recognizable IPA in flavor, but with lots of extra complexity and character at the finish. Highly recommended, if you can find it.

Widmer Brothers X-114 IPA

Widmer is just now getting into IPA brewing, and are starting off a "Rotator Series" IPA which will eventually consist of four different IPAs.  The first release is the X-114 IPA.  I imagine that the primary motive for brewing this was the thought, "You want hops? You want bitterness? Then stand by!"  This is a very bold IPA.  The nose is very redolent of pine, as is the taste. It’s just pure hops. I call it "Christmas Ale" because that’s what it reminds me of.  It’s the smell of a clean house with fresh Christmas tree in the living room. The flavor is similarly crisp. I’d say you really have to love a bitter, hoppy ale to enjoy this, but if you do, this is the one for you. [UPDATE: I had another one after writing this post. This is an enjoyable brew if you're an IPA fan, but if you're just starting on IPA, you should stay away from it. It really has a strong character of hops, and newbies will find it far too astringent to enjoy.]

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Double IPA

This is one of the most balanced IPAs I’ve run across.  Everything about it is just good.  It’s not as complex as the Sculpin, and not as bitter as the X-114.  It’s balanced, crisp, and refreshing, without going overboard in any direction. It has a nice, clean nose of hops, and just enough bitterness to bite. There’s no single element of the Torpedo IPA that’s outstanding. Instead, all of the elements are in balance, resulting in a marvelous IPA that’s more bold than, say the Stone IPA, without being overpowering. If you can’t find the Sculpin—and you probably can’t—then the Torpedo Double IPA is equally good.

New Belgium Ranger IPA

Ranger IPA is very close to the Torpedo in fine balance, strong, but not overpowering bitterness, and a clean, hoppy nose.  I’d put it between the Stone IPA and the Torpedo for complexity of taste. At the same time, it seems lighter, crisper, and more refreshing than the Torpedo. It’s like an extra bitter summer ale.

And, finally, not an IPA…

Deschutes Obsidian Stout

This one is hard. Try it back to back with a Guinness (Extra Stout, not Draft), which is a dry stout, and you’ll hate it. Try it by itself, and you’ll love it. It’s an unusual stout, in that it has these flavors of malt and barley sweetness that the bitter hops overcomes at the finish. Lots of dark chocolate and coffee notes as well. It’s a much bolder stout than usual.  I wouldn’t use it as a refreshing summer drink, because it isn’t. This is a sipping stout that’s very robust and substantial. I’d think that you’d really need to be a porter or stout fan to truly enjoy this, as it’s definitely not an introductory brew. Also, it’s available no further east than TX.

New Belgium Summer Ale and New Belgium Fat Tire Ale

Both of these ales are very close in flavor. They are much more lightly hopped than an IPA, and both have a fuller, more malty hint of sweetness in taste.  The Summer Ale, however is a bit lighter, and crisper, and is an excellent, refreshing hot-weather beverage. Both are very good pale ales. I was drinking the Summer Ale a few weeks ago when we were having a heat wave here. You can drink it like water, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that, unless you don’t need to operate heavy machinery. Or stand up.

I went to BevMo this weekend, and picked up a couple of six-packs of some British imports: Fuller’s London Porter and Extra Special Bitter and Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, so I’ll be trying those out for the next several days. I’ll let you know how that goes. I’m especially keen to try the Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout.  This is the original modern oatmeal stout. First brewed in the 1750′s, Smith’s produced it until after WWII.  They resurrected this type of stout in 1980, and were quickly followed by others in the UK and US.

UPDATE

I put the two different bottles of Fuller’s in the fridge this afternoon, and I couldn’t wait to taste it this evening.

Fuller’s ESB (Extra Special Bitter)

It pours a dark amber, with a thin, tan head. The nose is filled with hints of apricot and dried fruit. The taste comes on with a very slight hint of bitterness that is quickly overcome by a full malt flavor with hints of toffee and caramel, and finishes with a taste of whole-wheat bread sweetness. it’s got slightly more carbonation than I remember from pub draft bitter in the UK, which is only to be expected from the bottle, which dissipates after the glass has been sitting for a few minutes. Other than that, it’s very much in the tradition of a draft pub bitter. Probably a good choice for people that find the bitterness of an IPA is too much, and prefer the milder, sweeter ales. Or people, like me, who just like to try different ales. Even The Lovely Christine, who hates beer, tasted this and pronounced it drinkable. It’s that good, and that mild.

Fuller’s London Porter

Oh. My. God. It pours black with a red flare.  Before you even sip it fills your nostrils with a strong essence of earth and wood smoke. The taste attacks with strong notes of coffee and chocolate and toast. And it finishes with the bitterness of roasted malts, rather than the astringency of hops, followed by sweet toffee aftertaste. It has a thick, substantial mouth feel, and is smooth and creamy. Under it all is this sweet, malty, richness. I’ve had a number of American "Smoked Porters", but nothing like this. The coffee and cocoa notes are so pronounced! It’s lightly carbonated. This is just absolutely fantastic. Rate My Beer gives this a perfect 100. Now I know why.

~
Dale Franks
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Style Evolves

More horrific PHP programming of the maddeningly confusing WordPress theme system has produced the magical Google+ button to "+1" each individual post. If you’re a Google+ member, you should probably click that like a crack addicted monkey banging on the dispenser bar for his next fix.

~
Dale Franks
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2012 is gonna be nasty

Mitt Romney is upset that the Obama team is planning to run a negative campaign of personal attacks against him.

Obama has remained personally popular — scoring as high as an 86 percent approval rating in the District of Columbia in a recent Gallup poll. But while he’s personally well-liked, the president’s overall approval rating is 43 percent compared to 48 percent disapproval, according to Gallup.

With that knowledge and the poor economic climate, Politico reported that the Obama campaign has no choice but to give up the 2008 campaign of "hope" and turn negative, portraying the incumbent as "principled" whereas Romney is an "opportunist." 

By the way, going to a DC Poll to prove how well-liked Obama is, seems like a pretty clear case of cherry-picking your polls for a positive result. In any event, there’s more from Politico:

The dramatic and unabashedly negative turn is the product of political reality. Obama remains personally popular, but pluralities in recent polling disapprove of his handling of his job, and Americans fear the country is on the wrong track. His aides are increasingly resigned to running for reelection in a glum nation. And so the candidate who ran on “hope” in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent…

“Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney,” said a prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House.

The onslaught would have two aspects. The first is personal: Obama’s reelection campaign will portray the public Romney as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, “weird.”

Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign focused on a now-famous aphorism: "It’s the economy, stupid." It was the top theme of the campaign that carried the Arkansas governor to the White House. Skip forward 20 years, though, and the Obama administration’s campaign can rightfully be characterized with the slogan "It’s anything but the economy, stupid!" Seeking re-election with 9%+ unemployment and sub 2% GDP growth means that the economy is literally the last thing you want to discuss.

In fact, it’s difficult to figure out what, exactly, the Democrats can push as a positive result of the Obama Administration.  His signature achievement, Health Care Reform, remains deeply unpopular. The debt to GDP ratio has risen to 100%—and no doubt will be higher next year. For all his talk about deficit reduction, the president hasn’t actually put forward a written plan, though he has given a number of speeches.  His signature economic reform at the moment appears to be increasing taxes on "the rich", i.e., any family making more than $250,000 in household income. But beyond that is the deeper fear that the social welfare statism that has been the central tenet of the Democratic party for the last 30 years is simply unsustainable.  Not only is it nearly impossible to financially justify any real expansion of social democracy in the US, it’s difficult to see how even the current levels of welfare state spending can be sustained.

For the last three decades, Republicans have made soothing mouth noises about smaller government, while in actual practice, have continued driving the car off the cliff. The main difference between them and the Democrats, is that the Republican establishment has been firm in their refusal to upshift past third gear. On most occasions, anyway. That hasn’t really been particularly helpful. Both Republicans and Democrats in the political class have embraced a set of assumptions that spending increases are baked into the budget baseline, that any reductions in that baseline increase are "cuts", and that the time for financial rectitude—if it ever came—was at some hazy point in the far future.

Sadly, we’ve learned, as Rams coach George Allen used to tell us, that the future is now.

So, now, there’s the rising threat of the TEA Party, and their explicit argument that the welfare state experiment has been a financially disastrous failure, in that, even if one were to stipulate, arguendo, that the Democratic Party’s policies accomplished everything they wished in terms of creating a compassionate society, it would still be doomed to end due to the unsupportable financial burden it imposes. But, of course, while the latter is true, the former certainly isn’t, so there’s declining enthusiasm for continuing to support expensive programs that simply don’t accomplish their stated objectives.

In such an electoral climate, what remains, in the absence of any solid record of accomplishment, growing distrust of government, and financial/economic failure, is simply the will to power. And to maintain that power, destructive personal attacks are just about the only tool left in the Obama campaign toolbox. After all, we’ve already seen the change, and, so far, it hasn’t offered much hope.

The attacks that have been launched on the TEA Party are instructive.  If you can judge the quality of an opponent’s threat by the response it provokes in his enemies, then the TEA Party is enormously threatening to the entrenched political class. So far, they’ve been subjected to accusations of racism, extremist violence, been blamed for the failure of debt ceiling negotiations and the S&P downgrade of US debt, and derided as cranks and "hobbits".  Nearly every political ill has been ascribed to them by the political class—Democrats and establishment Republicans alike. I can only presume that this is because the political establishment perceives them as a threat.

By the same token, any Republican candidate can now expect withering personal attacks in response to any perceived electoral threat to President Obama. It may come from the Obama Campaign. It may come from media surrogates like Tina Brown’s Newsweek, which intentionally ran a cover picture this week whose sole purpose was, apparently, to make Michelle Bachmann look like a loon. It may come from campaign surrogates like SEIU union goons to heckle and disrupt campaign rallies. 

But, there’s no doubt that we’re in for a high level of personal nastiness and invective. This election is not going to be about some minor adjustment to spending, or some trifling adjustment of tax rates, or some nibbling at the edges of the regulatory state.  What is at stake in the 2012 election is the continuation of a world-view; a political philosophy that sees ever-larger government as the cure to whatever ails us. This next election is the first big battle for the survival of that worldview as the majority view of the political class, or the survival of the insurgent TEA party idea that government has become to large, too intrusive, and too expensive, so therefore must be radically reduced. There is little room to compromise between these two visions of government.  Indeed, in most ways, they are worldviews that are mutually exclusive. Over the next decade or so, we are going to learn which of these two views will prevail, and if the US, as presently composed, will remain a united polity.

We are now at a point where the fabric of the Republic is about to be tested as it hasn’t been since the Civil War, and this election is the first major event in that test.

It’s not going to be pretty.

~
Dale Franks
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London rioting–are we seeing the death throes of the welfare state?

Buried deep in the New York Times story about the ongoing riots in London, the inability of the police to contain them and the fact that they’ve now spread to other cities is this paragraph:

For a society already under severe economic strain, the rioting raised new questions about the political sustainability of the Cameron government’s spending cuts, particularly the deep cutbacks in social programs. These have hit the country’s poor especially hard, including large numbers of the minority youths who have been at the forefront of the unrest.

The underlying cause of the riots had to do with the shooting, by police, of a popular activist in London.  The spread, however, is presumably now because of the “spending cuts” the Cameron government has made in an effort to address it’s very serious deficit problem.   This on the heels of the same sort of unrest and rioting in Greece when social programs were cut.

The paragraph is intriguing because of the way it approaches the problem.   It doesn’t stress the debt or deficit the UK has or the fact that the level of spending the UK is committed too in order to fund the social programs is unsustainable, it instead addresses the “political sustainability” of such cuts.

That’s a very telling point.   Substitute “political will” for “political sustainability” and you get the picture.  And frankly, that’s what it boils down too everywhere.   Do the politicians in charge actually have the political will to do what must to be done to right the financial ship of state?

What has been built by the welfare states everywhere is crumbling.  There are large irreparable cracks in their foundations.  All are showing signs of unsustainability and that is leading to internal instability.  The recipients of the largess taxed from the producers and borrowed on their behalf isn’t going to be there much longer. 

That’s the problem.  Even the rioters know that the gravy train, in relative terms, is pretty much over.  Reality, not politicians, have said so.  In fact the politicians mostly have no choice – they either have the means to continue as they have in the past or hey don’t.   And the more severely indebted welfare states are hitting that wall.

Add this to the mix though and you see how very horrific this is for the UK:

Beyond such social challenges is the crisis enveloping London’s Metropolitan Police. Even before the outbreak of violence, the police have been deeply demoralized by the government’s plan to cut about 9,000 of about 35,000 officers and by allegations that it badly mishandled protests against the government’s austerity program last winter and failed to properly investigate the phone-hacking scandal that has dominated the headlines here for much of the summer. The force now faces widespread allegations that it failed to act quickly and forcefully enough to quell the rioting at its outset over the weekend.

And of course, citizens there are left not only to fend for themselves in many cases, but have been disarmed by government to boot.

As for the poor “disadvantaged youth” at the center of the rioting?  Well it seems they may not be quite as poor or disadvantaged as one would think:

Despite a build-up in the number of riot police officers, many of them rushed to London from areas around the country, gangs of hooded young people appeared to be outmaneuvering the police for the third successive night. Communicating via BlackBerry instant-message technology that the police have struggled to monitor, as well as by social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, they repeatedly signaled fresh target areas to those caught up in the mayhem.

They coupled their grasp of digital technology with the ability to race through London’s clogged traffic on bicycles and mopeds, creating what amounted to flying squads that switched from one scene to another in the London districts of Hackney, Lewisham, Clapham, Peckham, Croydon, Woolwich and Enfield, among others — and even, late on Monday night, at least minor outbreaks in the mainly upscale neighborhood of Notting Hill and parts of Camden.

They’ve used technology to organize flash mobs of looters.   It’s anarchy and the police seemingly aren’t up to the job of stopping it.

The BBC and other British news organizations reported Tuesday that the police may be permitted to use rubber bullets for the first time as part of the government’s strengthened response to any resumption of the mayhem. David Lammy, Britain’s intellectual-property minister, also called for a suspension of Blackberry’s encrypted instant message service. Many rioters, exploiting that service, had been able to organize mobs and outmaneuver the police, who were ill-equipped to monitor it.

Rubber bullets, of course, only have an effect if police are where the rioters are.   And apparently, that’s not something they’ve been particularly successful in doing here lately.

Finally, harkening back to the fact that the UK has a serious debt and deficit problem and must cut spending, one has to wonder why it is involved spending money on things like this:

On Tuesday, the violence seemed to be having a ripple effect beyond its immediate focal points: news reports spoke of a dramatic upsurge in household burglaries; sports authorities said at least two major soccer matches in London — including an international fixture between England and the Netherlands — had been postponed because the police could not spare officers to guarantee crowd safety. The postponements offered a dramatic reminder of the pressures on Mr. Cameron and his colleagues to guarantee a peaceful environment for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

That $15 billion extravaganza will have its centerpiece in a sprawling vista of new stadiums and an athletes’ village that lie only miles from the neighborhoods where much of the violence in the last three days has taken place.

Bread and circuses?  The UK is laying off policemen and cutting defense spending, but has $15 bil to throw at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games?  One has to wonder about priorities.

All-in-all a very volatile situation which could, given the method being used by the criminals, get worse.  In the meantime expect the liberals on both sides of the Atlantic to denounce the cut backs in social spending and demand the rioting “youths” be placated.  Political will is a scarce commodity in this world.   It may indeed end up the the “political sustainability” of the cuts fall before the desire of politicians to maintain power.   Of course that won’t change the fact that the unsustainable spending bill will come due whether they or the rioters like it or not.   But perhaps, just perhaps, they can kick the can down the road just enough for them to escape the wrath and blame that will come when that can can’t be kicked anywhere any longer.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Michael Moore’s inner totalitarian peeks out

Michael Moore, the “documentary” film maker who has pushed various liberal causes with extraordinarily slanted films, has called on President Obama to “show some guts” and arrest the head of Standard & Poors.

“Pres Obama, show some guts & arrest the CEO of Standard & Poors. These criminals brought down the economy in 2008& now they will do it again,” Mr. Moore wrote.

Yes, it’s all S&P’s fault. Somehow the 100% of GDP debt, 4 trillion of which was heaped on the pile within the last 3 years, was an S&P plot. Apparently Moore is of the opinion that credit rating agencies ought to align themselves politically and if they don’t, or won’t, well they’re open to arrest. S&P obviously should have just kept to itself and supported the outrageous spending this administration has committed itself too.

It seems in Moore’s world the rating agency’s job is to turn a blind eye to actions and activities which, for any other country, would have earned a downgrade quite a while ago.

It it is telling that on the liberal side of things, the first inclination is to attack the messenger. And that inclination is driven by one primary thing – politics.  Specifically the politics of personal destruction.  The downgrade obviously hurts Obama politically. And all the spinning in the world doesn’t change that.

Because they see this as a desperate situation, the mask slips a bit and you see the true face of "liberalism". Imagine, in a Moore approved regime, how dissent would be handled if he’s now calling for the arrest of the CEO of S&P.

Mr. Moore went on to note that the “owners of S&P are old Bush family friends,” continuing a theme he has developed through several films about capitalism as essentially a crony system for the rich and Wall Street, especially the Bush family.

He went on to link approvingly to an article last week in the Guardian, a left-wing British newspaper, about a police raid in Milan against the offices of S&P and fellow ratings agency Moody’s. Italian police were searching for evidence on whether the rating agencies, in the words of a local prosecutor, “respect regulations as they carry out their work”.

Two more interesting points – somehow it is “Bush’s fault” (there’s a surprise).  Additionally it is “important to respect regulations” when these agencies carry out their work. Of course Italy was downgraded by Moody’s and the reaction there by government has been much the same as here – “what us? How dare you”.  Fallback?  Government regulations, of course. 

Naturally Moore doesn’t bother to point out that the government of Italy is run by a right-wing Prime Minister who, at any other time, he’d now be calling a “fascist” for doing that.

Vintage Moore. Vintage liberalism. Liberalism in very deep trouble. And that’s always when its inner totalitarian usually begins to show.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO