Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sue the Problem Away

The battle of Whiteclay takes another turn.

The suit, filed by the Oglala Sioux tribe, alleges the defendants are "engaged in a common enterprise focused on assisting and participating in the illegal importation of alcohol" onto the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the sale, possession and consumption of alcohol is illegal.

They're going after the big boys, which is necessary when asking for $500 million.

The defendants include Anheuser-Busch InBev Worldwide Inc, SAB Miller, Molson Coors Brewing Company and Pabst Brewing Company, as well as four retailers in Whiteclay, Nebraska and the distributors who sell to them.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in federal court in Lincoln, Nebraska, claims the defendants have knowingly turned Whiteclay into a major source of alcohol smuggling onto the reservation, selling volumes of beer "far in excess of an amount that could be sold in compliance with the laws of the state of Nebraska."

Actually the reservation border is completely open, with only signs on the major roads telling you that you have entered, which makes the use of the term "smuggling" a bit of an exaggeration. (This doesn't make that border less real,though; the legal complexities of tribal/county/state/federal jurisprudence would make a European Union attorney cry.)

I won't pretend to know if this has any legal validity, but I do think it marks a bit of a change in tribal thinking. It's a civil suit, seeking monetary compensation, not an actual end to the practice. To me that indicates that the tribal government has effectively given up on prohibition and just wants help in dealing with the effects. Of course, legalizing and taxing alcohol sales would also accomplish this, but apparently they can't bring themselves to admit that the problem is internal and should be handled internally.

Whiteclay has been a bone of contention for years, and has been held to be legal. I do think it is unseemly, like putting a doughnut shop in the lobby of a weight-loss clinic. I would guess this lawsuit is also designed to shine a bigger light (Reuters is an international news organization) on the situation and try to shame the beer companies a little, or cause to them to decide it's not worth the trouble to do business there and agree to shut down in exchange for dropping the lawsuit.

If that were to happen, however, the tribal members would just have to drive farther to get the alcohol, likely resulting in more accidents. This problem is far beyond something that can be handled legally. Even $500 million probably wouldn't be enough for what would be required to deal with addiction at that level.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Vote for Not-Him

Finally starting a new blog year, as usual mostly with carryover from last year. The Denver Broncos continued their unlikely run, while the Atlanta Falcons put on a performance that I'm sure had the owner telling himself to avoid rash decisions. The weather continues to be well above average, and even if it goes bad we've reached the point where it's easier to see the end of winter.

I've been trying to follow the election process but it has been more difficult than 2008, and I've been trying to decide why. (It's not just the silliness of Iowa, where dedicated citizens select delegates who will select delegates who will select delegates who will select delegates - none of them bound by selection results - who will vote for the Republican nominee.) I think it's because 2008 had real significance, with a woman and a black man poised to make history and an economy just starting to get hit hard.

Now we're still muddling through that economic shock and the contested presidential race is among variations on an upper-class white man, with the leading contender more like the President than he dares admit in terms of policy and even less mainstream in terms of religion.

What has struck me a bit is how the candidates have been defined in terms of someone else. The main theme so far has been which candidate is the current Not-Romney, while Romney seems to be running as Not-Obama. None of the Republicans seems able to command the stage on his own merit.

Whoever does get the nomination needs to provide some reason for people to believe he'll be an improvement. Otherwise it comes down to someone who has been doing the job - and can point to some successes - and someone who hasn't. The worst part is, it's just getting started.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dale and Tim

I must first note with some concern the absence of Dale Smith from his blog Faith in Honest Doubt for over a month. Hopefully he has simply had better things to do and not suffered some misfortune.

A co-worker recently asked me why people have such a strong dislike for Tim Tebow. I personally don't understand it myself, but from what I've gathered, a few thoughts came up.

From a football angle, I can imagine some Denver fans (and coaches) thinking that the team is only going to go so far with him at QB (or modern single-wing tailback, as I prefer to think of him), and continuing to start him will delay the offensive improvement necessary for the team to compete at a higher level.

I agree with that line of reasoning to some degree, but (1) they're winning right now, even if it has been by the skin of their teeth against mostly bad teams, (2) Tebow is young, with room to improve and (3) it's not like he's holding up the development of a QB with greater NFL potential. I agree with the general analysis that they're not good enough to beat the likes of the Packers, Patriots or any team with a top offense. But as long as the defense holds up well enough to make Tebow's late-game heroics possible, they may as well enjoy the ride.

But from what I see, most of the criticism is personal, with his overt Christian faith a prime target, followed by the feeling that he's either too good to be true as a person or a phony with well-closeted skeletons. I also noticed a certain irritation with the zealousness of his fans, which has been true of many fans of celebrities and isn't Tebow's fault.

The faith does seem a bit overdone, but as long as it doesn't affect team chemistry it's really no one else's concern. As commenter billsfan1104 put it at The Stir...

He does not go around forcing anyone to believe what he believes. Many reporters ask about his religion and he answers them faithfully and without being ashamed. what is wrong with that??

As to whether he's a phony, I fall back on innocent until proven guilty, which makes me think some of the feeling is the classic jealousy of someone who seems to have it all, and who manages to succeed at a job for which he lacks what are considered by most experts to be the necessary skills. Again from The Stir, this time from commenter kelticmom...

So let me get this straight, the guy is nice, talented, humble, faithful to his beliefs, not ashamed to identify as a Christian, has good sportsmanship, morals....and people hate him for this???

I hope he realizes that it's possible to have the right enemies.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Premature Syndication and Insufficient Occupation

It's nice to see The Big Bang Theory in syndication, but I'm not entirely thrilled with the trend of putting shows out so soon. The program only has four seasons in the can, which I believe is 88 episodes. At the rate it's being shown - six nights a week on a local station here - they will cycle through the whole series in less than four months. Add to that TBS running it in big blocks on Tuesday and whenever else they can plug it in, and I worry about burning it out. On the other hand, at least it's still worth watching. The TV Guide Channel has dredged up some stuff (Ned and Stacey, Veronica's Closet, Cybill) best classified as cheap filler.

A co-worker asked me what the Occupy Wall Street people and their off-shoots are trying to accomplish. As I see it, they are demonstrating in the literal sense; they are trying to demonstrate to the moneychangers that actual people suffer from the consequences of their actions. Unfortunately I don't think they're really making much impact on their intended targets. I think of the scene in Dr. Zhivago where the protesters are marching in the snow while the upper classes sit inside at a fancy party and make fun of them (so far no cossacks, though, which is good). I suspect the only way they could get to the moneychangers would be to amp it up and put real fear into them, which would run the risk of losing popular support.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Taking a Compliment

Part of life is discovering things about yourself. Indeed, that is practically the definition of growing up; you find out what genetic hand you were dealt and what you like and dislike. But even well into middle age, it’s still possible to have something pop up and challenge your self-image.

What brought this to mind? Recently I have been informed that -at least to some women -I am considered good-looking. Not swoon-inducing, mind you; I haven’t been asked to sign undergarments for women who couldn’t believe their luck at meeting Brad Pitt in South Dakota, nor have I been getting hit on at stop lights as used to happen to a buddy in college. But reliable sources have told me that I am reasonably attractive to certain members of the opposite sex.

I know, Boo Hoo, what a traumatic revelation, have I sought help in dealing with it? More to the point, why is this notion such a surprise? After all, three women chose to marry me, and no indications were ever given that it was despite my looks (it certainly wasn’t for money), nor was unattractiveness ever mentioned during the bad times leading to two divorces. At no time in my life have I ever had reason to think that my physical appearance was a major factor in my life.

Perhaps that last sentence explains it. I have never given much thought to my looks, and when I have considered it, I’ve been ambivalent. I was the skinny nerd of my class growing up, with the stereotypical shyness, clumsiness and fashion sense. I never thought that I was going to attract girls physically, so I didn’t put any effort into it, which made it self-fulfilling. Eventually I learned to use humor and intellect, to which I’ve always given credit for my small romantic successes. I gradually improved my style somewhat and overcame the shyness, but I never gave my natural physical attributes real consideration. When my wife told me that her daughter said I look “a little nerdy”, that was right in my comfort zone. Conversely, when I’ve gotten compliments about my appearance I’ve usually shrugged them off.

Thirty-plus years later, I still think of myself as that bony kid. I guess it’s time to consider the possibility that I’ve aged well and learn to enjoy a pleasant surprise when I get one. Oh, and to keep a marker handy in case I have to autograph a bra.

Without Charlie

I guess my personal verdict is in on the new Two and a Half Men: I didn’t feel like watching it last Monday.

I had decided to try approaching the show like a spin-off, since I thought eliminating Charlie Sheen was going to require too much plot demolition to retain continuity as it existed. I felt this could be a chance to retool a show that had begun to get tired and weird. I also realized it would be a long shot. I’m not sure what the producers and writers were thinking. I get the impression so far that they aren’t sure either.

To their credit, they handled the awkward part – getting rid of Sheen – fairly well. The funeral had a mix of comedy and sadness and an overall feel consistent with the series. Ashton Kutcher’s introduction also had a jarring suddenness that fit in with this show’s lack of subtlety. But since then, the show seems to reflect a conflict between the desire of the producers to prove it could continue as it was without Sheen and the writers’ inability to let him go.

They dropped Kutcher into a plot contrived to try to keep the remaining characters more or less as they were despite the radical change. Sheen’s old girlfriends are turning up to hit on Kutcher and Judy Greer - who once played Myra, Judith’s new sister-in-law and one of Sheen’s more entertaining flings – is now cast as Kutcher’s estranged wife. (I must say that this is also consistent with the show’s past. Jennifer Taylor, who played Chelsea, Sheen’s last big love interest, had appeared on the show three times before as different characters, and April Bowlby had been on as someone else before she played Kandi.) The result feels like they’re trying to go back and forth between two shows with the same actors.

Kutcher’s performance suggests he realizes that he was hired strictly as a gimmick to keep the show going. Hopefully the creative team will put more enthusiasm into his character, which might give this a chance to succeed, although the ratings trend isn’t encouraging. I’ll probably tune in again to see how they’re doing. But they have to finish mourning Sheen and move on.