The Internet

Recently I read three book that, in one way or another, dealt with the internet. I have also been watching episodes of Catfish: The TV Show.  Felicia Day’s book, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is a memoir that describes how she became involved in a web series and website. A lot of it is very funny because she had an unusual childhood . Day writes about how she found a community online through gaming and social media. One chapter deals with gamergate. Day was not directly involved but she has faced misogyny online.

Crash Override by Zoe Quinn is directly about gamergate since the author was the main actor in that saga. She had a  difficult and unhappy childhood and turned to internet games for a sense of community and identity. A disgruntled ex boyfriend published a screed against which turned into a huge online phenomena at great personal cost to Quinn.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesa Zappia is a novel about a very shy and socially awkward teenage girl who creates a  fictional identity for herself  through an online webcomic forum. On the internet she is a  strong and dynamic creator, Lady Constellation, and she has a large fan base. There are serious consequences when her true identity is revealed

Catfish The TV Show is about people who pose as  someone they are not on the internet and then get romantically involved with unsuspecting men or women. Many of the catfishers are people, most often women who are insecure about their looks and weight. Others are scared to reveal their sexual identity to friends and family so they create a fake persona online. Some catfishers are scam artists seeking money.

The three books and the tv show reveal the ways in which we use the internet to find community, define ourselves and or escape reality.  The internet can be a free and open space for young people  particularly, to try on different ways of being and expressing themselves. It can also help people who do not fit in the real world to feel like they belong.

However it can also be a dangerous and potentially harmful space. The 2016 elections revealed the consequences of fake information and fake personas. The misogyny that Zoe Quin and other women continue to face on the internet remains a serous problem.

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Alcohol and Cancer

The Irish legislature, the Oireachtas, is considering adding a warning label about drinking and cancer to alcoholic beverages. Ireland would be the first country to have such a  warning label. America has had labels that warn about drinking while pregnant and driving while intoxicated since 1988. Wine labels  also inform the consumer that the bottle contains sulfites.

In Ireland the issue is pitting Alcohol Action Ireland, public health advocates against the liquor industry represented by the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI). Alcohol Action is presenting the legislation  as necessary to protect public health and safety while the industry is concerned about the effect the legislation would have on the economy, including tourism. This is the perennial tension that has existed in America since the end of Prohibition.

A warning label that mentions cancer could be the first sign that public perception about  drinking is moving in a more negative direction. Alcohol, particularly  beer, has gained a seemingly ever increasing integration into American society. Recently both craft beer and craft distilled spirits have captured the public’s attention.

In the 19th century smoking and drinking were both considered vices. In the first few decades of the 20th century tobacco gained market share while alcohol endured Prohibition. Since the 1960’s the two industries’ fortunes reversed.  Access to tobacco became severely curtailed while alcohol gained greater cultural acceptance and societal integration.

Since the 1960s the wine industry has pushed for labels that would state the heart health benefits of drinking the product. It is possible that the tide would change again if the claim that drinking is implicated in breast and other cancers becomes more widely known.

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Twitter Woes

Last Friday after I wrote my weekly post, I wanted to tweet about it as I do every week. However after I wrote the tweet, I couldn’t send it because I got the following message: “This request looks like it might be automated. To protect our users from spam and other malicious activity, we can’t complete this action right now. Please try again later.”

As you can imagine, I was very surprised and tried to fix the problem. I restarted my computer, changed my password, and try to contact twitter. I tweeted @twitter and @twittersupport. I got a response that said they would look into but that they don’t respond to individual reports. I also filled out a form from the Twitter support bot. Nothing has worked.

I just tried again and it still doesn’t work. I have also retold my problem to the Twitter support bot. I find it ironic that they are accusing me of being automated and they have a bot instead of a person to communicate with. I tried phone calling and  a message said they don’t deal with service issue on the phone. You have to do it online. That means there is no person to talk to even if you have a problem. I find that unbelievable.

I have always been a big fan of Twitter. I have liked using it for almost ten years. This issue has really colored how I am thinking about Twitter. When I contemplate how they let so many Russians post false tweets and now they won’t let me, an innocent person, tweet my own url it is very aggravating.

I can’t really see how this will get resolved. I can’t talk to anyone and I get the same canned message over and over from Twitter support.  It is so random that I started getting this message that I have to hope it will also randomly end.

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Bud Light

A couple of days ago, USA Today, had a story about the top three beers in America. Budweiser is no longer in that category. Bud Light is still number one, Coors Light is number two and Miller Lite has supplanted Budweiser in the third spot.  It is fitting that this change has happened since Miller was the first brewery to produce a lower calorie beer.

The article also mention that people are drinking less beer. Craft beer has done well because people are spending more even if they are drinking less. However some of the bigger craft breweries such as Boston Beer have lost market share. Younger people are switching from beer to spirits. Overall consumption rates are steady .

It is interesting to me that the top three beers are all low-calorie.  Here is a post from my old blog about the calories in beer. A Jaffa Cake is  named after the Jaffa orange, has three layers; sponge cake, orange jelly and chocolate frosting.

The picture of the men shows the potential consequences of over consumption of beer.

December 4 2008

How Many Calories are in a Beer?

Alan, of A Good Beer Blog, provides a link to a British site that will calculate the number of calories in an alcoholic drink and then compare the number to equivalent amounts of food. As I mentioned  two days ago American beers do not contain ingredient or caloric information. The site, Radio 1 & 1Xtra’s Alcohol Experiment is fun and the food items that they use as comparisons are not American food so that is interesting.  I don’t know what  a jaffa cake is although the picture looks like a chocolate glazed doughnut. Beer seems to be the highest in calories with a mixed drink being a close second.

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Whisky Tax Break

In 1976 Congress created tax differential for small brewers. The tax rate at that time was $9 a barrel for large brewers; small breweries that produced less than 2 million barrels paid $7 on their first 60,000 barrels.

When 1991 legislation increased the overall tax rate to $18, legislators retained the small brewer’s differential. The recent tax bill reduced taxes for both small and large brewers while maintaining a reduced rate for some brewers. The new tax bill also changed the rates for distillers, creating for the first time a differential rate for craft distillers. For a two-year period, the excise tax on distilled spirits will be only $2.70 per proof gallon for the first 100,00 gallons a year. The standard rates is $13.50 a proof gallon.

Craft distilling, modeled after craft brewing has emerged as a niche market in the past ten to fifteen years. There is a trade association for this segment of the distilling industry. The American Craft Spirits Association “is a registered non-profit trade group representing the U.S. craft spirits industry.” To be a member you must “annually produce fewer than 750,000 proof gallons removed from bond.” That is equivalent to 2.8 million liters.

Of course, most distilling is done by mega global corporations. Diageo is the world’s biggest whiskey producer with $16.8 billion dollars in sales. Their production of Johnnie Walker, just one of their brands, was 156.6 million liters in 2016.

The fact that the tax legislation represented a joint effort between large, and small brewers as well as craft distillers and the distilling industry overall is a departure from previous lobbying efforts. In the past, legislators have seen distilled spirits and beer as distinct products and have formulated tax rates separately, usually choosing to tax  distilled spirits which has a higher alcohol content at a higher rate. Localities today see both craft beer and craft distilling as engines of development and want to encourage this activity. In post- industrial America where we manufacture very little,  beer and whisky are still made in the USA.

 

 

 

 

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New Year Goals

My goals for 2018 are pretty similar to the goals I had last year. I plan to blog once a week and tweet every day. I am off to a great start in tweeting because I attended the United States Figuring Skating Association National Championships in San Jose last week. I had a lot to say about the event.

While at Nationals I posted to Instagram several times and that’s probably something I will do more of this year. I don’t think It will be regularly schedule it like the blog and twitter because I don’t always have picture I want to post.

One reason I started blogging more frequently last year is I hoped it would help with writing my book. It did help but not as much as I would have liked. In two and a half years I have written three chapters. I would like to pick up the pace.

I wrote a similar post at the end of 2010 and I found it interesting to re-read it.  At that time I had one chapter of my book on faculty wives written and I was hoping  to complete three more. I did in fact do that but then I got stalled. The three chapters I have written since the summer of 2016 are new or rewritten chapters.  Still I have been working on this project since 2009 so I would like to finish.

My personal goals  are pretty typical and include eating better, losing weight, improving my ice skating and organizing my house. These are perennial goals which I make some progress on each year but never as much as I would like.

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Year End Review

Since I always post on Friday, I am doing  the recap of my year today. My goal for this website was to post once a week. I started on January  6 2017 so this is my fifty-first post.  I feel I met my goal. Blogging once a week was hard but I managed. I think I will keep to the same schedule for 2018.

When I post this, I will have  247 post for my WordPress blog. I previously did thirty-eight posts on a different platform. My total is 285. Only fifteen more and I will have 300 which will feel like a big accomplishment. In February I will have been blogging for ten years.

I wanted to give you some statistics about my most popular posts and such but Jetpack seems to have stopped tracking that information for the last week. I reactivated it today and it seems to be working now. I guess the lesson from this is to check that everything is working more frequently.

My most popular post, by far was Methylated Spirits which I published in July 2013.  My top post of the year was Louis’s Pyjamas.  I averaged 17 views a day.  I have some ideas for new topics that I didn’t get to this year but I hope I will be able to write about them in 2018.

As I have said before, tweeting every day was much easier that  blogging once a week. I started with 1938 tweets and if I had tweeted every day I would have had 2,303 on Dec. 31. It is two days before that and I have 2.517. I tweeted  579 times which equals 1.59 times a day. Many of the tweets were political; this year of Trump provided a lot of material. I have 130 followers which is three more people than I follow. I think that is a good ratio.

My top tweet was on the night of the Alabama senate election and it was a retweet . I always include #ResistTrump and #ResistFascism with my  tweets about politics.

I plan to continue tweeting and blogging this coming year. I will be on vacation so I will resume posting on January 12. Happy New Year!

 

 

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Beer for the Holidays

Beer has traditionally been a summer drink and even today with complete access to refrigeration beer sales are greatest  in the summer. Post Repeal brewers who faced a changed retail landscape tried to start their selling season in March by promoting bock beer. You can read more about that here.

In today’s retail market pumpkin beer and Oktoberfest gives brewers a fall season. Apparently the Christmas holidays do represent an uptick in beer sales. Some popular styles are heavier beers like porters, stouts and brown ale. My favorite brown beer is Smutty Nose Brown Ale. Here is an article that lists 25 holiday beers.

Happy Holidays!

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Re-post: The Road from Repeal: The Three Tier System

As a followup to last week’s post about the impending tax legislation and it’s effect on the brewing industry, I am re-posting a blog from December 2008. At that time, in honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition, I wrote a series of posts about  Repeal and it’s aftermath. This one was about the three-tier system. It is relevant to what I wrote last week because I discussed Cindy McCain and her family’s wholesale liquor business. I wrote about that in the context of John McCain’s run for president. As I mentioned last week, you can probably draw a straight line from Hensley & Company to McCain’s support of the tax legislation.

The Road from Reform: The Three Tier System.

Prior to Prohibition distribution and sales of beer took place in variety of ways. Many brewers owned saloons which functioned as retail operations. The brewers supplied their beer to the saloon keeper.  Shipping brewers who operated on a national level maintained distribution outlets at various railroad stops. Although there were different federal fees for wholesale and retail dealers as well as excise taxes on brewers there was a lot of blurring of the lines between these different areas of the beer industry. Brewer ownership of saloons was the most problematic example.

As the federal government contemplated the return of legal liquor in 1932 and early 1933, alcohol advocates argued for a very distinct separation of production, wholesale distribution and retail sale of alcoholic beverages. Thus they established the three-tier system. Under federal law a brewer can not be the wholesale distributor of their product or the retail seller. Some aspects of this 1933 legislation had to be altered to allow the opening of brew pubs.

One outcome of this legislation was the development of a large group of beer wholesalers. Since 1938 they have had a national organization, the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA). There are 2,750 wholesalers. This year the focus of the organization has been celebrating the 75th anniversary of Repeal as well as continuing to pursue permanent repeal of the estate tax, a rollback of beer excise taxes, prevent alcoholic equivalency labeling and avoid paying for public service announcement against under-age drinking. In the past leaders of the NWBA have advocated a reduction in the minimum drinking age.

Cindy McCain, wife of recent presidential candidate John McCain, is heir to one of the largest beer distributors in the country. A New York Times article in August 2008 examined the role of her family business in Arizona politics. Hensley & Company is the third largest Budweiser distributorship in the country. The mega breweries, Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors, have all achieved their dominance partly through creating deep and wide-spread distribution networks. Budweiser’s are the deepest of course. It is this distribution capacity and its resulting shelf space that InBev desired to purchase. It will be interesting to see if they use it to continue to sell Bud or to attempt to place some of their other beers on the same shelves.

Cindy McCain is an absentee owner and does not directly run any aspect of Hensley and Company. All of her children hold shares in the company. Her stepson, Andy McCain is a top executive and also president of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. Hensley & Company makes significant contributions to local politicians and contributes money to fight any potential increases in state excise taxes. The last increase was in 1984, only the third increase since Prohibition and, at sixteen cents a gallon is below the national median of nineteen cents. Hensley & Company, of course, belongs to the NBWA and supports its federal legislative agenda. Thus some observers wondered if John McCain as president would be able to be neutral on issues that related to the beer industry. Luckily we will never have to find out. As a senator he has received more money from the beer lobby than almost any other politician.

On the state level Hensley & Company have been successful in preventing taxes increase even when they have been proposed to help finance early childhood education or pediatric hospitals. The company is now supporting legislation that would make any tax increase more difficult to enact because passage would require a majority  of all registered voters not just those who vote.*

The role that Hensley and Company plays in Arizona as well as the role the NBWA plays on the national scene illustrates the changed political landscape for the brewing industry in the past seventy-five years. As the brewing industry consolidated there were fewer and fewer brewers and the larger numbers of wholesalers began to play a larger role in politics. There are many more wholesalers than there are brewers, even counting craft brewers, so they are likely to be a larger political force.

* For more information on beer and Arizona politics see the Phoenix Business Journal.

 

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The Tax Man Cometh

For several years  the brewing industry has been seeking a rollback of the beer taxes of 1991. Until now I was dubious that they would be successful during the Trump administration. The heinous tax bill that the Senate passed last week appears to have achieved the industry’s goal.  The Senate put the tenets of the Craft Beverage  Modernization and Tax Reform Act into the pending tax legislation.

Senator Roy Blount, (R., Missouri) is the sponsor of the  beer legislation and his son is a lobbyist for Miller Coors. Cindy McCain’s family owns Hensley Beverage which is a major beer distributor located in Arizona. The National Beer Wholesalers Association, a trade lobby, supports the tax cuts. The McCain family involvement in the beer industry probably explains John McCain’s decision to support the tax legislation despite the complete lack of a process during the writing of the bill. No hearings were held and most Senators voted without reading the legislation.

The craft beer industry markets itself as David fighting the golaiths of Anheuser Busch and Miller Coors. They claim to be providing authentic flavors and products to deserving customers. Their full-throat-ed support of the Senate tax bill would seem to contradict this image. The bill eliminates deductions for student loans, state property taxes, the ACA individual mandate and in general screws anybody who is not in the one percent.

The bill will generate a huge deficit which will enable Republicans, once it is passed, to seek cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  The Brewers Association posted the following disclaimer: “Please keep in mind that the BA and its members have had no input on the larger political issues in play on the tax reform bill.” This rings hollow. Craft brewers should be ashamed of themselves for supporting such terrible legislation.

 

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