The Legend of Wooley Swamp

What ever happened to nuance? Jabberwocky is being spewed up by the left and right as they try to drag us into their Wonderlands. This blog charts a path out of this swamp of simple truths and false certainties. And from time to time, it'll be a place for more light-hearted musings.

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Location: Palms - L.A, California

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Immigration Iceman Cometh

Today the Senate looks set to finally pass the heavily debated bill reforming the Immigration and Nationality Act. Charles Babington has a good piece in today's Washington Post on how we got here (and where to next), click here.

For more on the last minute deluge of amendments - aimed at making sure that the final version bears as little resemblance as possible to the original McCain-Kennedy proposal - I humbly recommend a previous post on the Swamp, click here, and Duke's thoughts over at Migra Matters, click here.

I hope to have some more on the final version of the bill - including the promised commentary on the English language amendments - posted as soon as possible. But whatever shape or size it assumes, its fate in the joint Senate-House conference committee is decidedly up in the air.

Update: The bill just passed by a 62-36 vote - with four Democrats casting nay votes and 23 Republicans, i.e. not a majority of them, casting yeas. Click here for more by Charles Babington in tomorrow's paper. Also, Amy Goldstein examines 'hidden traps' within the bill, and lets some talking heads offer their two cents, click here.


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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

World Cup Beer Update

First and foremost, here are two excellent articles on my king of beer types, bock beer, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, click here and here. 'Tis indeed the season....

In the wake of the Budweiser World Cup brouhaha it seems that the St Louis, Missouri brewing giant is on the offensive. Here's a summary of recent court rulings on which country's German immigrants are allowed to brew Bud, Budweiser, Budvar etc and where they they're allowed to do so. It seems that the descendents of German immigrants to the Czech regions have competing historical claims with their kinfolk who once headed to Missouri. Pretty ridiculous if you ask me.

BTW, Budweiser USA is not allowed to market its beers at "Budweiser" in Germany since the Czech company Budvar Budweiser has the copyright on the name "Budweiser Budvar" there. As if that wasn't enough, German brewer BITburger (watch out for the annoying song) then claimed that Budweiser's nickname "Bud" was too similar to its "Bit". Puh-lease. They reached a compromise that benefits all of us: Bitburger will be the only other beer for sale at stadiums and Budweiser will sell its beer under the new name "Anheuser Busch Bud", which may confuse some folks.

Speaking of confusion about the national origin of beers. If you ever wanted a list of beers from the 32 countries (OK, not Iran and Saudi Arabia) participating in the World Cup this summer, here's a brilliant and entirely subjective guide from the Publican, a UK pub site.

Finally, in another World Cup development it seems the Bavarian company that tried to cash in on the worst and weirdest mascot ever, GOLEO, is now bankrupt..... Now why am I not surprised?

Good-bye Goleo!

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Amend-a-Palooza: Orange Senate Crush

As I write this, the Senate is voting on yet another amendment to the comprehensive immigration bill. You could interpret this as a positive step since the bill was basically declared dead around Easter. You would not be entirely wrong.

As Charles Babington reports in today’s WP, some kind of bill seems likely to emerge from the Senate this week. But all’s not fair that seems fair:

“Backers of President Bush's bid to revamp immigration laws scored another small victory in the Senate yesterday, but they are increasingly concerned about a House Republican policy that could block final agreement even if a bipartisan majority is within reach.
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's insistence that major legislation reach the House floor only if it appears to be backed by a "majority of the majority" could throw a high hurdle in front of efforts to reach a House-Senate compromise on immigration later this year, lawmakers said. Hastert (R-Ill.) has invoked the policy in blocking bills that appeared likely to win approval from more than half of the House's 435 members but less than half of its 231 Republicans.”

Still, for the moment it seems more relevant to mention the avalanche of amendments that each Senator continues to introduce. To clarify, the purpose of these is to add or subtract something from the main bill - and to make the Senator look active. It’s kind of like a bulletin board full of post-it notes, and currently it looks as chaotic as can be. According to the Senate website, there are currently 147 amendments on the table.

The latest one, offered by Senator Feinstein of California, introduced the notion of an ‘Orange Card’ – playing off the good will of the ol' Green Card. The color orange is a beautiful one and given that it’s the color of some U.S. prison jumpsuits, far too many German sun worshippers (Read that article! Seriously!) and a TOTAL confusion when it comes to ribbons, perhaps it is time that it took on a different, simpler meaning.

It was meant to provide a simple, one-tier path to citizenship for the undocumented - and supposed to have some kind of bar code!? Senator Feinstein tries her best to be a hardliner at times, but in this case she's on to a good, common sense idea. You see, the current version of the bill proposes dividing illegal immigrants into three arbitrary categories: those in the U.S. for five years or longer, up to two and a half years, and those less than that. Different rules would apply to each group, with the latter basically being told to leave ASAP. It goes without saying that besides being arbitrary, it will be very hard to prove which category someone belongs to. We are talking about the undocumented after all....

I used the past tense above on purpose as the amendment was just rejected (37-61). Too bad - in my book her one-tier path to citizenship beats the three-tiered one - but this was done in the spirit of saving the overall bill. The three tiered approach was a major component of the compromise that saved the bill from an early burial.

Lots of other nuggets have already been up for debate, e.g. the use of the National Guard on the border - passed with a whopping 83-10! Republicans from Utah dissenting as did the Vermonters; and the building of more fencing along the Southwest border – passed by 83-16, led by the efforts of the junior Senator from the non-border state of Alabama, Jeff Sessions.

National Guardsmen and Fencing: sounds ominous. But these are concessions to the restrictionists that will not totally decimate the rest of the bill. The Guard will "only" provide temporary logistical support to the Border Patrol, and there will be no fence à la Robert Samuelson.

Another amendment by Senator Jeff Bingaman from the border state above all others, New Mexico, is a very unnecessary one indeed. Its intent is to further limit the number of guest-workers and it also looks likely to pass. This too is meant to assuage the nativists. But all it really means is that more people will remain in the shadows as 'illegals' instead of becoming legal 'guest-workers'. Great, I mean, they won't leave....So this numerical cut - from 325,000 to 200,000/year- serves no real purpose other than catering to delusional restrictionists.

In the next few days, I plan to post something about the most controversial amendments, two competing ones that both passed last week. They deal with the role of the English language and as such touch upon the crux of immigration, assimilation and what it means to be American. Plenty of hysteria and sanity to relate here. At a later stage, I hope to compare this with becoming e.g. German or Swedish.


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Monday, May 22, 2006

World Cup Beers: Get Over It Already!

Since the week is young, the Swamp offers the first installment in a new series:

Brewy Mondays

This is prompted by an article in the Times of London. It reports on what some see as blasphemy: Budweiser, one of the main sponsors of the World Cup is actually going to be given near-monopoly rights when it comes to sales of….yes, beers in the stadiums. Hello? Is this news?

Roger Boyes writes:

“The Germans are furious that Budweiser will be the official tipple for the soccer World Cup. The American lager has secured a near-monopoly of beer sales inside World Cup stadiums and within a 500m radius of the grounds, supplanting more than 1270 domestic breweries. And what most upsets the fans is that Budweiser - advertised as the "King of Beers" in the US - fails to meet the ancient German standards for purity, which stipulate that beer can be brewed only from malt, hops and water.
Budweiser uses rice in its production process and therefore fails to qualify as a beer in the German sense. Budweiser's World Cup status is a slap in the face for a country that attaches such importance to beer production. When Germany was a patchwork of principalities and duchies, a sponsored brewery was seen as the stamp of independence. "Most pubs don't even stock it," groaned Walter Konig, of the Bavarian Breweries Association. "Bavarian beer should be available in a Bavarian stadium - Munich - for the first kick-off.”
Click here to read the entire brouhaha

Immigrant Merchant of Impure Brews?

Furious? Asleep for the past few years is more like it. Crikey, a German immigrant to the U.S. (that's him, Adolphus Busch, to the right) founded Budweiser. Be proud if anything - or at least accept a share of the blame. Tastes change, palates adapt, new recipes develop. Ask someone from Szechuan what they think of Kung Pao Chicken made in Berlin. Or a Stockholmer about the meatballs served up at IKEA in Vancouver. Actually, they are kind of tasty.... 'tis all so relative.

Look, I love beer and consider myself a happy amateur when it comes to the art of sniffing out and quaffing a good brew. But this saga is more than a little ridiculous. Every German city has countless stores that sell gallons of good beer that you can then drink in public spaces - as long as you behave - so I really see no cause for concern. Especially when it's really feigned outrage at this late hour in the day. The World Cup starts in less than three weeks.

Yesterday, I was at a baseball game with a friend and we had a couple of Miller Lites. Gasp and Yikes! What WAS I thinking? Is it my beer of choice? Number 324 on my all-time list? Not even. But it is still beer…kind of. As we watched the rekindled Washington-area rivalry play out between the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals, people seemed to be enjoying themselves. Despite the ghastly 'paint thinner' on tap. Go figure.

Da Troegenator, Brethren of Budweiser!

Later on we found a premium tap serving Blue Moon Belgian White. An American beer, one of hundreds that are just hunky dory. And if I may recommend another, I'd pick the Troegenator out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The king of doppelbocks on this side of the pond! In case you were wondering: the Troegenator is named in honor of the original German double bock, Paulaner’s Salvator – most bocks in Germany end in –ator in deference to this magic brew from Munich.

The fuss in the article surrounding the anno 1516 Bavarian Purity Law (also inaccurately called the German Purity Law – Germany came about some 350 years later) is just that: a hullabaloo. Read this article to find out why. Good beer is good beer. Bad beer is bad beer. Simple.

So get over it, leute and folks. Your crocodile tears are anything but pure. But if you’re looking for a good guide to German beer, click here. Just don’t ruin the games by whining about Budweiser (or anything else for that matter). OK?

jo, who will be enjoying other beers and probably the occasional overpriced Budweiser while supporting Tunisia!

PS Please read these L.A. Times articles on bock beer, click here and here.

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