Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: January 2009


Sarah’s Getting Ready for 2012

Sarah Palin has opened up a Political Action Committee called SarahPAC.  This is not the action of someone who thinks she’s had her brief day in the sun of national politics, and is preparing to retire gracefully to the wide open spaces of Alaska.This is as close to a declaration of candicacy for president in 2012 as it is possible to make three years in advance.

But, apart from the Hot MILF thing, what does Sarah Palin have going for her?

It’s an interesting question because, as Josh Painter at RedState writes, who Sarah Palin is, or what she believes, seems still to be in the eye of the beholder.  Painter surveys a variety of views about Sarah Palin, whose common thread seems to be that what one believes about Gov. Palin derives from one’s internal state of mind, rather than the external reality of what Sarah Palin actually stands for.

In examplum:

Self-described conservative Paul Mulshine, in his New Jersey Star Ledger column:

If anyone can think of a reason Palin qualifies as a conservative, please let me know. The truth is that Palin is a project of the so-called “neo” conservatives, who are actually a bunch of moony-eyed leftists masquerading as conservatives.

Patrick J. Buchanan, in an opinion piece for Chronicles magazine:

Make no mistake. Sarah Palin is no neocon. She did not come by her beliefs by studying Leo Strauss. She is a traditionalist whose values are those of family, faith, community and country, not some utopian ideology.

Michelle Goldberg, writing in the left wing magazine The Nation:

She has not always governed as a zealot; in fact, she’s a bit of a cipher, with scant record of speeches or writings on social issues or foreign policy. Nevertheless, several people who’ve dealt with her say that those concerned about church-state separation should be chilled by the idea of a Palin presidency. “To understand Sarah Palin, you have to realize that she is a religious fundamentalist,” said Howard Bess, a retired liberal Baptist minister living in Palmer. “The structure of her understanding of life is no different from a Muslim fundamentalist.”

Professional Palin critic Dan Fagan in a post on his Alaska Standard blog:

It is indisputable the governor has leaned strongly to the left with her policies in her first two years as governor.

Apparently, Sarah’s message–whatever it is–still hasn’t been clearly made to the literati.  It’s endlessly amusing to me, though, that she’s seen both as an unreconstructed  conservative, and a wild-eyed leftist.

Depending on who’s doing the viewing, of course.


Saturday Photoblogging [Updated]

Today was a good day.  I got to go to a place of wonder, and beauty, and exceptional craftsmanship.  A place that Bruce will weep for not being able to visit.

The outside of the magical fairyland I visited today.

The outside of the magical fairyland I visited today.

There’s no hint of what this building is from the outside.  The building itself has a modern, updated look reminiscent of a 19th-century factory building.  But there’s no name on the outside.  No signage.  Only if you look in the service parking lot, and see the name painted on the sides of the delivery truck, would you have any idea that this is, in fact, the Stone Brewery.  Stone is a microbrewery here in Escondido that makes a number of fine lagers, stouts, and, of course, their flagship product, Arrogant Bastard Ale.

Actually, Stone considers Stone Pale Ale and Stone IPA to be their flagship products, but it’s Arrogant Bastard that’s their best-known product.

The tour was organized through an online photography group that Chris belongs to, and we were lucky to get into it, because it’s a tour that fills up fast.  Not only is it free, but there’s a special treat at the end.  About which, more in due course.

The entrance to the main production floor

The entrance to the main production floor

The first think you notice is how spotless the production floor is.  Everything is cleaned and shined, including the two-story stainless steel brewing tanks.  They must go through a fortune in Windex.

Oak Casks.  Some of the last remnants of a dying art.

Oak Casks. Some of the last remnants of a dying art.

“Barrels,” you think.  “so what?  Seen ‘em my whole life.”  Well take a last look, then.  Because you probably wont see many of them in the future.  Cooperage is a dying art now, and Stone is having a devil of a time trying to find suppliers of oak casks for their casked ale.  Think about the skill and craft that has to go into making watertight containers for storing liquids for months, when your only materials are wooden planks and iron hoops.

The number of people who know how to complete that task has declined precipitously.  The replacements for the oak cask are made of aluminum or plastic.  Functional.  Efficient.  But utterly unable to infuse an ale with the woody taste of oak.

Soulless, in other words.

Three simple ingredients, one great result.

Three simple ingredients, one great result.

Stone doesn’t use much to make their beers.  Just barley grains, some dried hop pellets, and water.  Somehow, they magically make the water deliciously flavored and frothy.

Vats of magic

Vats of magic.

Each of these two-story brewing vats contain thousands of gallons of beer in the making.  You can smell the yeasty, hoppy essence of ale all through the production area.

Aluminum tap kegs, ready for shipment.

Aluminum tap kegs, ready for shipment.

In addition to their fine bottled product, Stone ales are also available on tap.

I wish I had one of these.  Filled with this.

I wish I had one of these. Filled with this.

This is a refrigerator.  It may not look like it, but it is.  The king of walk-in refrigerators.  Filled to the ceiling with cans, bottles, ponies, and kegs of beer, ale, and stout.  It’s the best refrigerator I’ve ever seen.  By the way, that’s Chris, over on the right, sneaking into my shot with her camera and tripod.

Stout and Ale

Stout and Ale

The Irish vs. The English.  Who wins?  I don’t know.  I only know I enjoy the competition.  It may take many, many more years–and beers–of competition to tell.

Stone Imperial Russian Stout

Exciting parting gifts

You can’t go to a brewery and leave empty-handed, so I picked up four bottles of Stone Imperial Russian Stout.  It comes in big 1 pint, 6 ounce bottles (at five bucks apiece, natch).  It’s also 10.8% alcohol by volume.  You gotta give it to those Russians, boy.  They never miss a chance to put extra alcohol in…well…anything.

Mine!  All Mine!

Mine! All Mine!

These are cases of of a very fine product called Dale’s Pale Ale.  My repeated insistence to the tour guide that these were, in fact, mine, because “they have my name on them” was met with polite laughter, and barely concealed disdain.  (Chris took this photo.)

The best part of the tour.

The best part of the tour.

At the end of the tour, we all got to go to the brewery’s draft bar for free samples of the various Stone products.  Chris shot this picture of me as I was working my way from left to right across the line of taps.  I believe I’m enjoying a delicious Smoked Porter in this particular shot.  At least, I think that’s what it was, but, frankly,  my memories of this portion of the tour became increasingly indistinct as time passed.

Wish you coulda been there, Bruce.

UPDATE: As I write this, I’m drinking one of the bottles of Stone Imperial Russian Stout I bought at the brewery.  It is fantastic!

The different ales I drank at the brewery, in their intolerably small sampling glasses were good.  But I’m a stout man.  I enjoy and ale; wouldn’t turn one down.  But I’ve been a Guinness man for years.

This, however, is better than Guinness.  I feel a frisson of fear for being blasphemous by writing that…but it’s true.  It’s thicker, and more robust than Guinness, yet it lacks a degree or two of the bitter hoppiness.  It’s there, but more subdued.  The Stone product is smoother, richer, and less bitter.  Epic Win for Stone on the Imperial Russian Ale.

I also have a bottle of the Bitter Chocolate and Oatmeal Stout.  I’m now really looking forward to trying it to compare and contrast.

UPDATE 2: Having finished a bottle of the Russian Stout, I’m now having a bottle of the Stone Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.

Stone Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.  I'm drinking this right now.

Stone Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. I'm drinking this right now. (Cell Phone Pic)

This is a degree less bitter than the Russian, but, if anything, equally–or perhaps more–thick and robust.  Very smooth, and another win for Stone.

If only it wasn’t $5 a bottle, it might become a regular tipple.


Why Should Republicans Cooperate With Obama?

Why Should Republicans Cooperate With Obama?

Take a gander at that chart.  James Joyner put it together to illustrate why the Republicans might not be that concerned with cooperating with Democrats right now.

It’s certainly nothing particularly new in politics.  When Republicans were the majority party in both houses of Congress and had a Republican President, it was much the same for Democrats at the time.  And we watched Tom Daschle and the boys in the Senate act just like one would expect a minority party with the above choices to act.  That is, they mostly said “no” to almost everything the Republican administration wanted.

The difference at the time was there were much closer numbers on both sides in the Senate so that luring Democrats to pass anything was a necessary thing.  Then “bi-partisanship”,  like it or not, was a necessity.  Then flavoring the bill enough to attract Democrats was something which had to be done.

Now that’s not necessary at all.

Now, with the possibility of a 58th Democratic Senator (if Republican Sen. Gregg accepts the Commerce post, the Democratic Governor of NH will surely name a Democrat to that seat) and two “independents” who have and always will caucus with the Senate Democrats, they don’t need Republicans at all.   The Republican minority in this session doesn’t even enjoy the power it had in the last session of Congress or that was enjoyed by the Democrats when they were last in the minority.  It is a completely different game.

That reality actually makes it a little easier for Republicans to vote “no”. They know the inevitable consequences of voting”yes” for anything the administration wants will leave them out in the cold when credit is due or holding the bag when the policy fails.  It’s a lose-lose situation.  Why voluntarily put your party in that position in the name of some nebulous goal of the other party – namely bi-partisanship?

Instead, become the adamant (although mostly powerless), principled opposition, become a shadow government and offer alternatives to what is being rammed through by Democrats in Congress without your wanted or needed participation.   Solidarity of purpose (principled opposition) is now the Republican’s most effective weapon.

Oh, and Republicans – for a change, make sure the public understands your alternatives and why you’re against what you’re against.  Hire a PR firm if you have too, but get the word out – effectively – before the other side paints you as nothing more than petty obstructionists (remember it is hard to be either petty or an obstructionist when you don’t have the power to defeat the vote in either house of Congress if the Democrats stick together).

~McQ


Lard, Transfer Payments and Payoffs Make Up Bulk of Democratic “Stimulus” Bill

Where the "stimulus" money is going, in billions

Where the "stimulus" money is going, in billions

Show me, please, where any of that listed on the left is a ‘stimulus’ that will create jobs, other than government jobs?  We’re talking productive private sector jobs here.

Sure “refundable tax credits” – i.e. sending money from people who pay taxes to people who don’t – unemployment insurance and food stamps will certainly get money into the system.  But it’s not going to stimulate anything in particular.

So when you see over $265 billion of this so-called “stimulus” being spent thusly, you realize that over 30% is going to relief.  While relief may sound good, other than the government bureaucrats it takes to run the programs, it doesn’t provide much stimulus where it is most needed – creating jobs.

Transfer payments, then, consume 1/3 of the stimulus bill.  Great.  What else?

Well, consider these little goodies:

• $8 billion on “renewable energy” projects, which have a low or negative return
• $7 billion for “modernizing federal buildings and facilities”
• $6 billion on urban transit systems, dominated by unions and which, almost universally, lose money
• $2.4 billion for “carbon-capture demonstration projects”
• $2 billion for child-care subsidies
• $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that’s run in the red for 40 years
• $650 million for “digital TV conversion coupons” (on top of billions already spent)
• $600 million on new cars for government (added to the $3 billion already spent each year)
• $400 million for “global-warming research”
• $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts

Anyone – what will $50 million for the NEA do to “stimulate the economy?”  And the last thing we need is more “global warming research”.

Much of the rest of the billions and billions and billions of dollars being taxed, borrowed or printed will go toward projects which won’t spend their first dollar before late 2010 or early 2011.  And corporate income taxes?  Well, can’t cut those because we might actually see jobs created if that was done.

One area these dollars won’t be spent, and in fact is being cut while we’re engaged in 2 wars is Defense spending.

The Obama administration has asked the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to cut the Pentagon’s budget request for the fiscal year 2010 by more than 10 percent — about $55 billion — a senior U.S. defense official tells FOX News.

Last year’s defense budget was $512 billion. Service chiefs and planners will be spending the weekend “burning the midnight oil” looking at ways to cut the budget — looking especially at weapons programs, the defense official said.

Some overall budget figures are expected to be announced Monday.

Obama met Friday at the White House with a small group of military advisers, including Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman, and Gen. Jim Jones, National Security Council chairman.

All those promises about strengthening the military, taking care of our vets, etc. — just words.

Nope, your crisis is the left’s wet dream.  As Rahm Emanuel said, no reason to let a good crisis go to waste.  They’re going to pass things now they could never pass previously under normal circumstances.  That’s why House Democrats only allowed one hour of “debate” before voting.  Hell, you can’t even read the  whole name of the bill and all the sponsors in an hour.  However, had they actually allowed for debate, you might have heard about the pork and transfer payments and special favors (like those tax favors given to Hollywood) which make up such a large part of this bill.  Can’t have that in this most “transparent” of administrations, can we?

Hope and change.

~McQ


Meanwhile In Iraq

Progress continues:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has hailed a largely peaceful vote for new provincial councils across the country as a victory for all Iraqis.

Voting was extended by one hour due to a strong turnout, including among Sunni Muslims who boycotted the last polls.

The first nationwide vote in four years is being seen as a test of Iraq’s stability ahead of a general election due later this year.

Security, while tight, seems to have been effective:

Despite warnings from Iraqi and US military commanders that al-Qaeda posed a threat to the elections, there were relatively few incidents reported.

And the Sunni’s decided to participate this time:

The turnout was reported to be brisk even in Sunni areas.

The head of the Iraqi electoral commission in Anbar province – a centre of the Sunni resistance to the US occupation – said he was expecting a 60% turnout.

Their participation will, of course, change the representation in government, but it looks like the Sunni’s have decided that becoming a part of the solution is a much better strategy than being a part off the problem.

Real hope and change.

~McQ


An “Honest” Mistake

I’ve come to understand that Democrats don’t like tax cuts, but even more importantly, they don’t like paying taxes.  This time its Obama’s HHS nominee, Tom Daschle.  Apparently Mr. Daschle was absolutely clueless that he should have been paying taxes on a car and driver which was provided at taxpayer expense:

After being defeated in his 2004 re-election campaign to the Senate, Daschle in 2005 became a consultant and chairman of the executive advisory board at InterMedia Advisors.

Based in New York City, InterMedia Advisors is a private equity firm founded in part by longtime Daschle friend and Democratic fundraiser Leo Hindery, the former president of the YES network (the New York Yankees’ and New Jersey Devils’ cable television channel).

That same year he began his professional relationship with InterMedia, Daschle began using the services of Hindery’s car and driver.

The Cadillac and driver were never part of Daschle’s official compensation package at InterMedia, but Mr. Daschle — who as Senate majority leader enjoyed the use of a car and driver at taxpayer expense — didn’t declare their services on his income taxes, as tax laws require.

During the vetting process to become HHS secretary, Daschle corrected the tax violation, voluntarily paying $101,943 in back taxes plus interest, working with his accountant to amend his tax returns for 2005 through 2007.

Now I’d expect to be told this is just an “honest” mistake, much like Tim Geithner’s. And of course, the same people who defended the tax cheat who is now Secretary of Treasury, are defending Daschle:

“The president has confidence that Sen. Daschle is the right person to lead the fight for health care reform,” White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said. “In preparation for his nomination, Sen. Daschle and his accountant identified some tax issues and fixed them. They filed amended return with the IRS and made payments with interest. Sen. Daschle brought these issues to the Finance Committee’s attention when he submitted his nomination forms and we are confident the committee is going to schedule a hearing for him very soon and he will be confirmed.”

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., added: “Sen. Daschle will be confirmed as secretary of health and human services. He has a long and distinguished career and record in public service and is the best person to help reform health care in this country.”

When did Daschle “identify” these tax problems? It appears only after the distinct probability that Obama would win and that he’d be serving in Obama’s administration. Suddenly he was concerned:

Daschle reimbursed the IRS $31,462 in taxes and interest for tax year 2005; $35,546 for 2006; and $34,935 for 2007, a Daschle spokesperson said, adding that Daschle had asked his accountant to look into the tax implications of the car and driver five months before Obama won the presidency.

It wasn’t important in 2005, 2006 or 2007. It only became important when not paying them stood in the way of a possible job in the administration.

The Daschle spokesperson told ABC News that the senator, facing questions from the committee, has said “he deeply regretted his mistake. When he realized it was a mistake he corrected it rapidly.”

Yup, some real ethical giants are going to be running the ship of state aren’t they?

Hope and change.

~McQ


Cake: Have it. Eat it. Choose One.

Maggie Gallagher says it exactly right over at The Corner, where she addresses the Bailout.

Here’s my take: The ongoing bailout of banks and business executives is not only wrong, it is deeply, deeply unpopular.  By taking potshots at executives–their salaries, their corporate jets, their redecorated offices–Obama hopes to deflect the unpopularity of his actual policies onto his opponents. He wants to channel voters’ entirely justified anger at the executives’ naked appeal for our cash towards the people who appear to defend them (because they are actually defending capitalism).

This way Obama can turn business executives into another Democratic interest group–and make Republicans pay the political cost. Expect very big campaign dollars flowing into Democrat coffers by scared, scared executives. A little public ritual humiliation in exchange for billions? Yeah, quite a few will go for that. Riding a car to DC should not earn your failed corporation a taxpayer bailout. It’s still wrong.

Defending the right of the free market and the goodness of business as an enterpirse [sic] is all true, but right now it’s besides the real point, and so plays into Obama’s hand.

The point is that these are failed business executives seeking taxpayer dollars to bail them out.

Republicans should be the ones making Obama pay for bailing out wealthy business failures with OUR money.

She’s right.  It’s Obama, not the Republicans, who are trying to turn businesses into government clients with taxpayer money.  If people are angry about it, it’s the guy who’s pushing it who should get the blame.


An American Hero

Heroes are the uncommon breed, devoid of the frailties that steer normal humans away from potentially deadly situations. Possessed of the deepest sense of devotion to family, friends and comrades, these are the people who mortgage their own lives for the future of others. Heroes are the ones who make our lives better through their own vigilance, fortitude and strength of will. They are the guardian angels of our very hopes and dreams. This is the story of one the greatest among them [HT: The Whistler].