Nicholas Kristof's Bogus Anti-Beer Crusade

The New York Times columnist launches a sloppy attack against Anheuser-Busch based on beer sales to South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation.

Is there a New York Times columnist as insufferably moralistic, or as neglectful of facts that contradict his argument, as Nicholas Kristof? Last week Kristof mounted yet another of his high-horse save-the-children campaigns, this time against beermasters Anheuser-Busch. Kristof asks readers to join his boycott of the leading brewer for (he says) improperly permitting its output to be sold in large volumes in tiny Whiteclay, Neb., just across the state line from the Oglala Sioux's Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Though notionally dry, the reservation is in practice wracked with alcoholism.

This state of affairs is not new, but is making headlines because a Nebraska lawyer has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Oglala Sioux tribe against Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and various other defendants. The lawsuit claims $500 million in damages—reparations, really—for letting the malt beverages be sold in places where Pine Ridge residents can so easily get at them.

Unlike Kristof's column and blog post, the Times' earlier reporting on the dispute at least makes a few concessions about how the tribe's alcoholism problem has more complicated origins than the lawsuit would make it seem. For example, it quotes Oglala members who say the unusual Pine Ridge policy of complete alcohol prohibition within its boundaries has been a failure; other reservations, such as the nearby Rosebud, choose to legalize liquor sales, which tends to establish a class of local sellers more interested in staying in the community's good graces. Kristof by contrast appears to have swallowed the lawsuit's contentions in one hearty draft. And lawsuit contentions, like beer itself, can be dangerous when over-quaffed by the naive.

It took me about thirty seconds online to find the brewers' brief on behalf of their joint motion to dismiss the case, filed April 27 more than a week before Kristof's column. Of its many arguments as to why the case should fail, this one jumped out at me:

Nebraska’s statutory three-tier distribution system prohibits Brewers from selling to the public at retail and from controlling the chain of distribution in Nebraska.  By law, Brewers cannot control their independent, state-licensed wholesalers.  Nebraska law also prevents Brewers from controlling the independent, state-licensed retailers or their sales to the general public.

Those familiar with state beer regulation will recognize what's going on here. Most states—specifically those with the "three-tier" system—carefully cultivate the profitability of the licensed beer wholesaling business by limiting the legal rights of brewers (as well as retailers and end-consumers) to work around them. If Nebraska is typical, that would make it unlawful for the brewers to arm-twist the wholesalers through economic threats into curtailing supplies to the Whiteclay border sellers. Maybe the tribe's lawyers will turn out to have some great answer to this objection, but for Kristof not even to bring it up seems surpassingly naive.

And yet naivete runs like an ever-freshening stream through the Kristof oeuvre. Thus the columnist effusively praises a proposal by former Sen. James Abourezk (D-S.D.) "for the Obama administration to extend Pine Ridge reservation lines to include Whiteclay." Were such a proposal to go forward (and wouldn't the tiny hamlet's landowners and residents, to say nothing of the state of Nebraska, have plausible grounds to object?) the stores would have to close down. Victory! But then what would happen when new stores popped up just past the redrawn boundary?

It's fine with me if Kristof doesn't want to drink Bud, so long as I don't have to read him.

Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and editor of Overlawyered.com.

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  • R C Dean||

    Kristof asks readers to join his boycott of the leading brewer

    Like Kristof and his buddies are knocking back Bud Lite by the caseload.

  • Restoras||

    I boycott Anheuser-Busch because it makes crappy beer.

  • robc||

    This. I can think of ~100 million reasons to boycott ABI.

    To be fair, I dont boycott all their products. Goose Island...Hoegaarden...that might be it though.

  • Drake||

    I hate rice beer and won't touch Bud.

    I do like the Michelob Amber Bock and some of their seasons. I played golf with one of their sales guys a while back, he was bemoaning their poor marketing efforts for their good stuff.

  • SugarFree||

    The last A-B product I liked was Michelob Dark, which they discontinued to introduce Amber Bock. It was a damn shame.

  • robc||

    I for years wondered why Coors didnt advertise Blue Moon hard.

    Then they finally started doing it a few years back and Blue Moon has exploded.

  • Raistlin||

    Beach Bum is the only one from AB I found worth while. The best to come out of St. Louis is Shlafly, though. If you can find it, do try it.

  • ||

    Finally got to try the Coffee Bourbon County Stout last night at the Chicago Craft Beer Week kickoff event. It was nice, though I still prefer the original. This morning I read on twitter that some moron came up to John who runs Goose Island's barrel-aging program and said, "This doesn't taste fresh." So John poured himself a glass, took a sip, and said, "Don't like it? Then don't drink the fucking beer." I really wish I had been there for that exchange.

  • robc||

    Is John the son or the father? I thought the son had moved on from the business, or is that still in progress?

  • ||

    Neither. John Laffler runs the barrel-aging program at Goose.

  • robc||

    Ah, gotcha. Thought you were talking about John Hall (who is the Father).

  • dunkel||

    Hell yeah, more (insert variety)BCBS for me (sadly, there isn't much to go around in TN)

  • KDN||

    I've never gotten the allure of Hoegaarden. Its reputation may be tarnished in my mind from the bar near my house that charges $9.00 a pint for it, though.

  • robc||

    Yeah, not worth $9.

    Its not the best wit in the world, although it was at one time (first out of 1 is easy to do). I prefer both Celis White and St Bernardus Wit, but Hoegaarden is much better than Blue Moon.

  • KDN||

    I'm just not much of a wit fan, I suppose. I'll have to keep those two in mind in case I see em, though.

  • robc||

    Celis White is out of Michigan, I think their distribution area covers Indiana too.

    St Bernardus is out of Belgium and is all over.

    Hoegaarden, Celis White, and St Bernardus all came from the mind of Pierre Celis.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Didn't think Pierre Celis was affiliated with St. Bernardus (or St. Sixtus/Westvleteren). A brief blog post on the differences between Sixtus and Bernardus can be found here.

    Used to love Celis when I lived in Austin in the very late 90's. Another really tasty wit is Allagash's White.

  • robc||

    Celis was consulting for St B the last few years of his life.

  • robc||

    That wikipedia page really skips some steps in the story.

    He sold Celis Brewery to Miller and moved back to Belgium. Miller immediately ran Celis White into the ground. Michigan Brewing ended up buying the name and Celis helped them get the recipe/procedure right.

  • ||

    Hoegaarden is one of the few decent beers widely available in southern China.

  • Wizard4169||

    Not sure I've ever drunk ANYTHING that was worth nine bucks a pint. My local liquor store has even the best brews for MAYBE five or six bucks a bottle. (That's eight bucks for an honest pint, for the mathematically inclined.) I guess you're paying for the ambiance...

  • perlhaqr||

    Goose Island has really gone downhill since they sold out.

    Fuck, I sound like a hipster.

    But it's still true.

  • Pi Guy||

    Q: Know what Diet Bud and Having Sex On The Beach have in common?

    A: They're both Fucking Close To Water.

    *rimshot*

  • robc||

    That is possibly the worst version of that joke I have ever heard.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Agreed.

  • SIV||

    Cosmotarian snobs. Now brag about how you're too cultured to eat iceberg lettuce and white bread.

    Bud Light tastes like pisswater but Budweiser is an excellent beverage.

  • KDN||

    Bud Light tastes like pisswater but Budweiser is an excellent beverage

    Fresh Budweiser is excellent. It quickly loses its flavor, though.

    Honestly, access to fresh Bud Heavy is one of my favorite things about the Prudential center in Newark, right after the local hockey team. The local brewery is down the street and the kegs head right there. Good stuff.

  • robc||

    the kegs head right there

    Unless Jersey's laws are way different than I expect, unlikely.

    They head to the distributor first. Nothing stopping the distributor from dropping off kegs at the Prudential Center on the way to their warehouse, but I doubt it.

  • KDN||

    You'd know better than I would, but it's still better there (even at its inflated price) than I've ever had it anywhere else. Let's be honest though, it's Newark: would you really be the least bit surprised to learn that there's some special arrangement that allows the Devils to get around such nonsense?

  • robc||

    Could be, but even so, its going to be a lot fresher if it goes from the brewery to the distributor on Monday and then to the Prudential Center on Tuesday than if it first has to ship in from 7 states away.

  • robc||

    Calling me the C-word?

    Im as paleo as they come. Bud sucks hard. Its infinitely better than Bud Light, but that doesnt change the fact that it sucks hard.

  • Drake||

    Maybe I've never had it fresh because regular Bud is indistinguishable from urine to me. I such a snob that I buy Yuengling which is cheaper than Bud in my local stores.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Budvar is delicious. Budweiser is shit. Unlike iceberg lettuce (thinking of the 1/4 head, blue cheese dressing and bacon salad) or white bread, I can't think of any redeeming qualities for Budweiser.

    I rather liked Yuengling when I was in Pittsburgh a few years ago. Not great, but not bad.

  • Wizard4169||

    Budweiser = least common denominator. It's not actually good, but it does little to offend anyone. Success!

  • Zeb||

    What a dimp. Can Anheuser-Busch even do anything about that? Wouldn't it be the local distributor who sells beer to that store?

  • RBS||

    Yes, but I doubt the local distributor has pockets as deep as A-B et al.

  • robc||

    Yep, and in most states, due to the 3 tier laws, the brewer has no real control over who the distributor sells to.

  • ||

    Fuck, in Illinois the brewer doesn't even have control over who their distributor is. (Well, they have control over who they sign with, but the distributor can sell their rights to a third party and the brewer can't do shit about it. That's why Bell's pulled out of Illinois for a while a few years back.)

  • robc||

    Franchise laws suck hard.

    Its not just Illinois. Most states are easier to get out of the deal than Illinois, but its still not easy.

    There aint no free agency at the end of the contract.

  • John||

    Give Kristof a break. I hear he is very good friends with Elizabeth Warren and is thus very sensitive to the struggles of Indians.

  • ||

    "I hear he is very good friends with Elizabeth Warren..."

    Insert Slap-a-ho joke here:

  • Tonio||

    Good one, John.

  • ||

    "It's fine with me if Kristof doesn't want to drink Bud, so long as I don't have to read him."

    You don't have to, Walter, but thanks for taking one for the team.

  • Bobarian||

    Oh wait, it's part of your job, so what are your options?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Kristof plays the "Fuck you, that's why" card. Typical liberal.

  • NotSure||

    Its all the fault of Busch.

  • John||

    +1

  • Mr. FIFY||

    That's a plus-ten at least, John. Quit being niggardly with the pluses.

  • sarcasmic||

    "It's Busch's fault" would have been +10 worthy.
    I give it a 2.

  • robc||

    Buschitler reference might have been even better, although it might hit too close.

  • robc||

    On a semi-related note, the Siebel brewing school in Chicago taught their classes in German up to WW1.

    For decades after that, there was limitations on non-German speaking brewers at A-B, as many of the meetings were held in German. English only speakers were hired, but there was a ceiling on their promotion.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Considering the original Budweiser beer came from the Czech Republic, the "Buschitler" tag makes even more sense.

  • Randian||

    howzabout Buschlitzer? Too much?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    The hipsters would like it, Randian. I wouldn't put anything Pabst them.

    /drumroll

  • Restoras||

    I see what you did there...

  • mgd||

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Thank you, you're a lovely audience. Try the veal.

    And now, the comedic stylings of Shecky Sloopyinca!

  • John||

    RACIST!!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    +666 for me being racist!

    /snark

  • Almanian...still||

    + Kurt and Kyle

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Is there a New York Times columnist as insufferably moralistic as Nicholas Kristof?

    No

  • John||

    Bob Herbert is on the line and would like to speak with you.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    OK, I win on a technicality. Herbert doesn't write for the NYT anymore.

  • John||

    I don't score at home anymore like I used to. Is Herbert at WAPO?

  • Almanian...still||

    John, you are on fire this morning. Perhaps you should chase down Mrs. John - strike while the iron's hot and all that, eh wot?!

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    I dunno. Maureen Dowd anyone?

  • Bobarian||

    Insufferable? Probably more so.

    Moralistic? meh.

    Idiotic? Hell-to-the-yeah!

  • Tonio||

    [W]hat would happen when new stores popped up just past the redrawn boundary?

    This is a perfect illustration of the fallacy of the "we just need another law" mindset. Ignore collateral damage (landowners who don't want to suddenly own land on a tribal reservation), down with collective punishment (if one member of a community won't do what we want we'll punish the whole community until you get the message), etc.

  • John||

    And the people on the reservation would just drive farther to get their beer and likely be drunk while doing it. And of course no every Indian is an alcoholic. I guess the ones that aren't need to stop drinking to save the ones who are.

  • Almanian...still||

    We may have to destroy the reservation to save it. It's for TEH CHILDRUN, John. think of Teh Childrumzzz!

  • OneOut||

    Driving further to get beer might be the tipping point for man made global warming.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Nicholas Kristof is a typical Western Intellectual in that he believes that HE is an adult capable of controlling his own life, and vast hordes of others are children who must be looked after by their betters.

    It's a little hard to tell if the Oglala Sioux have bought into this claptrap or are merely looking to scalp a white-eyes' corporation for sh*ts and giggles. Probably the former, though, considering that they though total prohibition had the chance of a fiddler's bitch or working.

  • RBS||

    I've always thought it was the opposite. People like Kristof have such a tenuous hold on their self control that they need government to step in, to save them from themselves. Your theory works too though.

  • Old Mexican||

    Is there a New York Times columnist human being as insufferably moralistic, or as neglectful of facts that contradict his argument, as Nicholas Kristof?


    Just to point out, his is a very exclusive set with little intersections.

  • Randian||

    The pope ain't no peach.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The Pope, for all the faults of Catholicism, is working with a couple of thousand years of tradition and experience. He isn't making it up as he goes along.

    The Western Intellectuals, on the other hand, made a fetish of "starting from zero"; throwing out all that went before. There is something to be said for such a position, but the consequences of actually putting it into practice would be messy, even if they really meant it. Of course most of them mean "I'm going to throw out anything I personally feel cramped by, but if that particular tradition later would work in my favor I'll invoke it in a New York Minute."

    I wish to hell Tom Wolfe would write more non-fiction and give up messing about with novels. He pegged these turkeys so wonderfully on Art and Architecture.

    Oh, well.

  • ||

    Is it naivete or willful obfuscation of facts?

  • Mr. FIFY||

  • RBS||

    I read "California donor" as "California Condor."

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I did, too.

  • John||

    she looks like a trade up from Tipper. She punches pretty well for the over 50 weight class. Way to go Al. I guess being a sex crazed poodle has its charms.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Hey, RFK Junior left his wife, so it must be a trend amongst older Democrat busybody males.

  • Old Mexican||

    As much as politics, though, [Elizabeth] Keadle appears to be devoted to conservation. A longtime resident of Rancho Santa Fe - a San Diego suburb that is among the most affluent communities in the country - she has given generously over the years to environmental programs and oceanography studies at the University of California at San Diego and helped raise money for other Earth-friendly groups. She's also said to be an avid horsewoman.


    In other words, she's a rich bitch who likes to ride animals...

  • Almanian...still||

    She's also said to be an avid horsewoman.

    Is that kind of like a Liger, but with a horse and a human?

    Or does it mean that she "likes the horses", if you know what I'm sayin'....

  • Randian||

    Those are called centaurs, Alamanian. Sheesh, did you flunk Mythology 100?

  • Bobarian||

    Looks like WomanBearPig to me.

  • OneOut||

    It is very important for "experts and vips" to deposit a little carbon on Antarctica to highlight the dangers of we little people depositing some carbon anywhere lest we begat a catastrophic chain reaction of global warming.

  • SugarFree||

    Though notionally dry, the reservation is in practice wracked with alcoholism.

    Fuck the dry "county" shit. The tyranny of the majority can suck it. It's always a one-way ratchet. Political units can outlaw a substance and be left alone, but if they legalize an otherwise illegal substance, Obama sends the DEA to fuck with them endlessly.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    It's the 21st century, and we STILL have dry counties in the United States.

    How fucking barbaric is that?

  • robc||

    Map time. Look what I get to deal with.

  • robc||

    Dang it, trying link again:

    here

    I sfed that up bad.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    What a fucked-up state.

  • robc||

    That map doesnt show all the detail. 4 PRECINCTS in western Louisville voted themselves dry a few years back.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Even more barbaric, robc. What a sad state of affairs.

  • robc||

    You wont get any arguments from me or SugarFree.

    And our alcohol laws are still better than plenty of states.

  • Bobarian||

    Hey, Hardin Co is pretty much wet now. In the past two months, I think 15 Liquor stores have popped up on my drive home.

  • robc||

    According to the map, which isnt always up to date, Hardin has 3 wet cities, 2 limited-100 cities and 1 limited-50 city. That has to cover most of the county.

    Those 6 are, in order, Etown, Radcliff and Vine Grove. Then Etown and Radcliff again. And finally West Point.

    So only 4 cities total, not sure why Elizabethtown and Radcliff are considered both moist and limited. Weird. Shelbyville, for example, is only in the moist list.

    Anyway, as Im sure you are aware, but for the rest, that covers pretty much the entire population of the county. And those outside it can get to Etown or Radcliff (or Bullitt Co) easily.

  • Randian||

    But you get to pal about with Raylan Givens in the holler, so I feel like that's a wash.

  • robc||

    Despite all the white on their, every metropolitan and micropolitan area in the state contains at least one city/county that is wet/moist/limited.

    The closest to dry is Somerset. Both Pulaski County and Somerset are dry, but the city of Burnside (population 611) is limited. The city annexed 8 miles of Lake Cumberland shoreline in order for one Marina to be able to sell alcohol.

  • robc||

    s/their/there/

  • ||

    Wait a minute - "wet for alcohol by the drink sales at golf courses"? Really? "Qualified Historic Site"? WTF? So it's dangerous and evil unless consumed in that county unless on a golf course or historic site? I grew up in Mississippi so it takes a lot to shock me, but this is absurd.

  • robc||

    Notice that the golf course exemption is determined by a vote of the PRECINCT that the golf course is located in. Not the city. Not the county. Precinct.

    Which means if you build a golf community with homes lining the fairways, its pretty easy to get it passed.

  • robc||

    MS still has a 5% abw limit on beer until July 1, so I dont want to hear about absurd.

    I was in Jackson Sun-Wed, its like their bars are stuck in 1997.

    But, the cap is going up to 8% on July 1, so kudos to Mississippi. Having a cap at all is crazy, but its still an improvement.

  • ||

    I was living in Hattiesburg and Jackson in the early 90s when the limit went up to 5%. We had quite a celebration with "real" beer.

    Living in Vermont now we have an incredible selection of excellent strong beers. It's almost like heaven except for the politics.

  • robc||

    The one qualifed historic site (a 2nd is pending) is Shaker Village.

    I would have guessed that the Shakers were teetotalers. But who knows? Crazy cultist nutbags.

  • robc||

    Looked up the definition of "Qualified Historic Site".

    Serve food and can seat 50.
    Lodging on premises.
    Either the building is a National Historic Landmark or is located in a National Historic District.

    The precinct approves it being wet by vote, then any buildings meeting that standard in the precinct can serve alcohol.

  • Tejicano||

    One of the great things about living in Japan - coin operated beer machines. There is a sign that says you have to be over 20 years old to purchase from them. For some reason the sign does its job and thus the entire world does not screech to a halt.

  • Old Mexican||

    Kristof asks readers to join his boycott of the leading brewer for [...] improperly permitting its output to be sold in large volumes in tiny Whiteclay, Neb., just across the state line from the Oglala Sioux's Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Though notionally dry, the reservation is in practice wracked with alcoholism.


    And Kristoff is the kind of person that can put two and two together and come up with the post hoc, ergo propter hoc conclusion that Anheuser-Busch caused the tribe's alcoholism problem. Do I get a prize?

    Obviously, NYT readership is populated by the kind of people that would readily entertain such conclusions regardless of the obvious intellectual laziness (or sleaziness) behind them.

  • RPR2||

    Kristof buried the lede. Indians are allowed to cross state lines?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Commerce Clause, kimosabes.

  • Loki||

    beermasters piss-water masters Anheuser-Busch

    FIFY

  • John||

    I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure Kristof is pro drug legalization. So in Kristof's world we should all be able to get our pot and coke without a problem just as long as we keep the Injuns from getting their fire water.

    What a dope.

  • Randian||

    You meant to say "racist/imperialist". I mean, gotta make sure the savages don't get into trouble, and it's the white man's responsibility to carry him up that hill.

  • MOFO.||

    Nicholas Kristof needs to eat my shit.

  • ||

    Officer, am I free to gambol around the beer distributor?

  • mgd||

    BEER DISTRIBUTION LOCKDOWN!!!

  • Number 2||

    "The lawsuit claims $500 million in damages—reparations, really—for letting the malt beverages be sold in places where Pine Ridge residents can so easily get at them"

    So is the implication here that Native Americans are inherently incapable of rationally deciding whether to consume alcoholic beverages, such that the rest of us are under a legal duty not to expose them to products containing alcohol?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    As annoying as that is, I recall some of the weird cr*p whites have put the Native Americans through "for their own good", and part of me hopes they're simply playing "OK, you want to treat us like children, pay up with the child support".

  • perlhaqr||

    On Google Maps, most of the town appears to be on the reservation already.

  • sweeterjan||

    Those familiar with state beer regulation will recognize what's going on here. Most states—specifically those with the "three-tier http://www.ceinturesfr.com/cei.....-c-29.html

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