The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Pre-Happy New Years!!!

"Hey, I'm In New York!"

Home with the fam - or, more to the point, my fam is home with my fam (does that make sense?).

Low key, for the most part, but I want to share two things with you. I'd been planning an excursion to the city (there's a second one coming up, more later) to see a band I'd heard on the radio, "The Fab Faux", ( It's going to sound cheesy and Beatlemania like, but it's simply extraordinary. These guys are session and backup band musicians... well, more in a moment.

First, we went to dinner. I'd been wanting to try one of the celebrity chef restaurants - and as touristy as it is, and after dickering between Mario Batali and Bobby Flay, we decided on Flay's "Mesa Grill" (no offense meant to fans of New York's maestro of nuveau italiano cuisine - I still want to visit Batali's salumeria. We just figured we'd get another italian meal while we're in town.).

The Mesa Grill was great. Yes, we were among all of the other tourisiti there, but nevertheless, the service was excellent. Had a marvelous blue corn jalapeno muffin - this is something I really need to try to make at home (now that I've got my cornbread recipe down). There's something about the little touches, too - things like little kernels of fresh corn in the muffin.

I couldn't decide on dinner, so in addition to my appetizers, I had... two more appetizers and a side as my main course. There's something about tuna tartare that is just damned appealing - the silkiness of the fish paired with whatever simple seasonings the chef had in mind. Todd English's Olives has an excellent version. In this case, Flay's tartare was tossed with some habanero oil, and it was incredible. I then moved on to a shrimp and garlic tamale, paired with a blue-corn tortilla barbecued duck taco. Both were fantastic. Janice had an outstanding snapper (on Boy Meets Grill, Bobby Flay seems to be always talking about grilling snapper, so Jan felt compelled to try it).

Desserts were incredible. Now, most folks who know me know that I'm a chocaholic. I love the stuff (which is why I ballooned up to 265 before going on my massive diet last year. I now content myself with the sugar-free kind, occasionally treating myself to something approaching real chocolate).

Anyhow, I skipped the chocolate this time - not for dietary reasons, but because there were some other things that caught my eye. I got the "Carrot Cake Cookie - Cream Cheese Ice Cream sandwich", which had a spicy pineapple sauce. The pastry chef outdid herself with this concoction - the semi-spicy gingery cookie balanced well with the not-too-sweet, not-too-sour cream cheese ice cream, capped off with a similarly balanced sauce. Jan got the "apple charlotte", which was like a spongy cake sort of thing. It wasn't precisely what I was expecting, but she enjoyed it.

Then it was on to the Fab Faux. These guys are Beatle fanatics, professional musicians who have pored over the minutae of Beatles music so that they can flawlessly reproduce the sound of their albums live in concert. I'd heard them do renditions of "Tomorrow Never Knows", a haunting song from "Revolver" (my favorite Beatle album), complete with the sounds of George Harrison's back-run guitar playing. If you're someone who appreciates the nuances of the Beatles' studio work, you'll love the Fab Faux. This is music that couldn't be reproduced to full measure live and in concert 30+ years ago.

It can today. The Fab Faux uses a complement of strings and brass (including Tom "Bones" Malone of "Blues Brothers" fame) to round out the ensemble.

We saw them at Webster Hall in the Bowery, where they did the complete White Album. It was a terrific experience - from the quiet sounds of "Dear Prudence" (which ranks up there as one of my favorite Beatles' songs), to songs like "Everyone's Got Something To Hide, Except for Me and My Monkey", a lesser known tune that remarkably lends itself to live play.

Pictures of the concert can be found here:

Look specifically at Picture 44. It'll give you a good idea as to what goes into one of these shows.

That's it for now - more later, including some New Years' greetings.

- Andrew

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Holiday Picture...

That Would Be Me, Santa, Suhail, and Jim Kaplan
Hope you all enjoy - a nice bit of holiday cheer, and the spirit of peace on Earth and goodwill towards man.
More to come later - I just got this e-mailed to me. (Photo courtesy of Legal Times)
- Andrew Langer

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Parallels to be Drawn...

I hadn't really thought about it until my friend, Cajun Tiger, commented, but there are parallels to be considered between my two posts from yesterday. Both Howard Stern and the activists from the Free Enterprise Fund have had the heavy-hand of government raised before them because of what they have said in the media.

And I guess my point is that we can't pick and choose whose speech we're going to protect - everybody doesn't like something that someone else says, and if you attack someone else for their speech there's nothing to stop someone else from attacking your's - witness the movement by the progressives to attack conservative speech on college campuses.

Of course, it's even more insidious when that heavy hand is thrust by the government official whose actions are being criticized against those who are criticizing him. There is little more sacred in our American system than the right of citizens to produce and distribute at their own expense critiques of people or organs of our government.

- Andrew Langer

Friday, December 16, 2005

Ronnie Earle Turns Government's Guns Against Critics

From Human Events...

Free Enterprise Fund: 'Ronnie Earle Declares War on 1st Amendment'

by Robert B. Bluey
Posted Dec 16, 2005
The Free Enterprise Fund, the new target of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, attacked the overzealous prosecutor Friday for trying to squelch free speech by subpoenaing two staffers who work for the conservative free-market organization.

Ads by the Free Enterprise Fund attacked Earle for his indictment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R.-Tex.). Now, Earle is firing back. The draft subpoena asks that the group provide documents related to the ad buys. Earle suggests they could affect the outcome of his case against DeLay.

“These subpoenas are utterly unnecessary and manifestly calculated to punish advocacy protected by the 1st Amendment,” said Ted Olson, the former U.S. solicitor general who is representing the Free Enterprise Fund. “The information ostensibly sought by these subpoenas concerning when and where television messages were broadcast could readily be obtained without burdening and harassing those who would dare to challenge the methods and motives of this prosecutor. This is intimidation, plain and simple.”

Earlier Friday, Robert Novak, writing exclusively for HUMAN EVENTS, broke the story about the subpoenas targeting Free Enterprise Fund Executive Director O’Brien Murray and Communications Director Todd Schorle.

Mallory Factor, chairman of the Free Enterprise Fund, said, “We are confident that we will prevail in this case, but regret that Ronnie Earle is continuing to blaze his own rogue trail of legal overreaching.”

The subpoena requires Murray and Schorle to testify in Texas at DeLay's change of venue hearing on Dec. 27 -- the Tuesday after Christmas -- about “any and all documentation regarding the advertisements that have been produced or paid for by the Free Enterprise Fund, including any and all information regarding media buys by the Free Enterprise Fund for those advertisements that have run in Austin, Texas, and that may affect whether Thomas Dale DeLay may receive a fair trial in Travis County, Texas."

Copyright © 2005 HUMAN EVENTS. All Rights Reserved.

Howard Stern - The Envy of Every Small Business Owner

“We’re being regulated to death!” So said shock jock Howard Stern outside of WXRK radio in New York, following his announcement in October 2004 that he would be leaving the heavily-regulated no-cost radio industry and moving to the unregulated “pay for service” satellite radio medium. With that statement, Stern echoed the sentiments of millions of small business owners nationwide, who are similarly being crushed under the burden of over-regulation..

How bad is it? For businesses with fewer than 20 employees, the federal government’s heavy hand costs them around $7,700 per employee per year, according to the Small Business Administration. State and local regulations only add to that burden. For an average-sized member of the National Federation of Independent Business (five employees) this means an additional cost of doing business of nearly $40,000 per year. And that burden is only increasing.

It’s no wonder that Stern is leaving radio. Like every other regulatory scheme, the penalties for rule breaking are being ratcheted-up. But unlike Stern, when regulations are tightened for your average small business owner, they simply can’t make a jump to an unregulated industry. For most, when the burden becomes too high, they have to close up shop. It’s only their larger brethren who are able to shift their operations overseas (“offshoring” didn’t just happen in the last four years – it’s the result of, among other things, thirty-plus years of intense industry regulation).

Stern’s switch comes at a strategic time, too. While he finds the proposed penalty scheme much too harsh for him to be able to effectively (let alone happily) work, it will undoubtedly become even more difficult in the coming years for those who remain on the public airwaves. At some point, civil penalties will not be enough for some who want to see tight control over content, and they will suggest appending criminal penalties for those who wantonly break the rules.

This is how it has gone for countless other industries in the United States. Some segment of the population convinces a legislator that a law is necessary to inhibit some form of behavior, that law produces a complex regulation, and in subsequent years the law is tightened and tightened as that lawmaker is under pressure to do something to satisfy the question, “what have you done for me lately?”

In many cases, the initial impetus behind the regulation is a not a bad one. Everyone wants clean water, for instance, and in the early 1970s it made perfect sense for the federal government to severely restrict the water pollution. But nobody would have foreseen the possibility that a small business owner would eventually go to prison for putting dry sand on dry sand, as happened to Ocie Mills in Florida. That happened because the Clean Water Act’s scope was gradually expanded, and its prohibitions tightened, so that eventually a much wider net was cast.

This process is known in some circles as “overcriminalization,” and it presents yet another threat to well-meaning citizens who inadvertently run afoul of the law. With the Congressional Research Service being unable to even quantify the current number of federal crimes, according to the Heritage Foundation’s Paul Rosenzweig, this threat takes on an even scarier dimension. How can any small business owner possibly be aware of the multitude of criminal laws impacting them when the federal government doesn’t even know?

Businessman David McNab found this out the hard way when enviro cops swarmed his boat bringing in his shipment of lobster tails from Honduras, acting on an anonymous tip that the crustaceans were undersized. This was in violation of, among other things, the “Lacey Act”, which holds that it is a crime to import seafood caught in violation of any foreign law. The problem is that only 3% of McNab’s shipment was undersized, so the federal agents additionally claimed that McNab should have had his shipment packed in cardboard boxes, instead of clear plastic bags. Yes, that’s right – cardboard boxes that you can’t see into were legal, but clear plastic bags that you could see into were criminal. McNab was sentenced in 2001 to eight years in prison.

Stern’s absolutely right: small businesses are being regulated to death. The pressure on him is the same pressure faced by small business owners nationwide. But he is a giant in his business, talented enough to be able to take advantage of the crossroads at which his industry finds itself. He can do the extraordinary and be a pioneer in an arena in which he’ll make the rules. This makes him the envy of every entrepreneur in America. In light of his decision, and in light of the economic soul-searching we are doing this election year, the time is ripe for us to seriously address the problems of overregulation and overcriminalization.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Small Business Loses Tough Champion...

Early last week, I was notified by friends at the Small Business Administration of the passing of Peter Sorum, acting National Ombudsman for Small Business. Peter had become a good friend over the years, and in him I'd come to know one of small businesses' best champions. For the uninitiated, the National Ombudsman works with small business owners who feel that they are being treated unfairly by federal regulatory agencies. It's a great, if often overlooked, program.

Here is Peter's obituary from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Peter Sorum worked for U.S. presidents
Trudi Hahn, Star Tribune
December 3, 2005

Peter Sorum spent Thanksgiving 1975 in China, preparing the way for his boss' visit in December. His boss was President Gerald Ford, and the visit would be only the second by a U.S. president to the Communist giant, closed since the 1949 revolution to anything American.

Across three decades, Sorum mixed politics, an education in the hospitality industry and small-business experience to fashion a career in which he served presidents from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush. He died Nov. 25 in Washington, D.C., after complications from a fall in late October. He was 58, and the acting national ombudsman for the Small Business Administration.

Sorum, a Minnesota native, lived in St. Charles and moved with his family at age 12 to Rochester, Minn. A high school research paper exploring cooperation between Michael's restaurant and the Kahler Hotel helped him earn a college scholarship from John Marshall High School in 1964, said his sister, Ellen Sorum of Minnetonka. The scholarship was to Michigan State University's Hotel and Restaurant School, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1968.

After graduation, he joined the Michigan State administration as assistant to the registrar. At the same time, he became active in politics, including the campaign of Michigan's Gov. William Milliken in 1970 and a spot on a reelection committee for President Nixon in 1972.

When Nixon resigned during the Watergate scandal in 1974, his successor, Ford, asked Sorum to be a special assistant to the First Family in the Advance Office that made travel arrangements for family and presidential trips to all 50 states and 10 countries, including the 1975 visit to China.

Sorum's experience there led to his involvement in bringing delegations of Chinese businessmen to the United States, including a group that attended the APEC Customs Trade Symposium in Seattle in November 1993. It was believed to be the first delegation ever permitted to leave China without official Chinese governmental sponsorship.

After his service to Ford, in 1977 he became vice president of the fundraising company for the campaigns of several GOP senators, including Rudy Boschwitz of Minnesota. He also was a senior adviser to the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Despite Sorum's involvement at top levels of U.S. politics, he still believed "you put your pants on one leg at a time whether you're going to the White House or to the coffee shop," his sister said.

In 1983, Sorum founded Maple Eagle International, a company that marketed interactive educational softwaredeveloped by a Canadian university. In the 1980s and 1990s he also was involved in publishing "The Word," a magazine for the Marine Corps Reserve Officers' Association and "Japan Now," a monthly from the Japanese Embassy.

He joined the Small Business Administration in 2001, where he held several posts, including acting national ombudsman intermittently from September 2003 until his death.

Sorum's papers from the Ford administration have been donated to the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Mich.

In addition to his sister Ellen Sorum, survivors include his wife, Mary Claire Hamlin, of Alexandria, Va.; daughter Priscilla Alden Sorum of St. Louis Mo.; brothers Gary of Minnetonka and David of Minneapolis; and his mother, Mary Evelyn Sorum of Rochester.

Private family services will be held at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Rochester. A memorial is pending in January in Washington.

Copyright 2005 Star Tribune. All rights reserved

Godspeed, Peter. Thank you for your years of service, for your work on behalf of small business, and for being a good friend.

- Andrew Langer