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Random thoughts on a winter afternoon

Posted: January 16, 2014 9:03 a.m.
Updated: January 17, 2014 5:00 a.m.

• First beer, now bourbon.

What’s a red-blooded American who likes a pop or two supposed to think when three of the most iconic tippling brands in the country are sold to foreigners?

Budweiser -- once known “as American as Chevrolet” -- was sold a few years ago to a Belgian-Brazilian company

Now the Japanese have bought Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark in a deal worth $13.62 billion.

The parent company of the two bourbons, Beam Inc., sold itself to Suntory Holdings Limited, a Japanese beverage conglomerate last week, no doubt dismaying millions of people in the United States.

There’s something about the two words “bourbon” and “Japan” that should never be mentioned in the same breath.

The sale comes at a time of explosive growth for bourbon, which is primarily made of corn and distilled in Kentucky. Doesn’t matter whether you take it neat, on the rocks or mixed with water or ginger ale, bourbon’s a hot drink these days.

Maker’s Mark -- you know, the bottle with the melted wax running over its cap and down the sides -- is a premium brand. Jim Beam’s at the upper end of the cheap bourbon names.

Heck, next thing you know, Jack Daniels -- or his illegitimate cousin, Evan Williams -- will be bought by the Japanese, perish the thought.

Hey, sake is a Japanese drink. Bourbon’s not.

It’s a sad day to belly up to the bar.

• Like chocolate?

If you do -- and it’s a strange duck who doesn’t -- you might as well buy the cheapest you can find, because most people can’t tell the difference between the discount store stuff and the premium candy.

One of the morning news shows did a blind taste test earlier this week -- literally, that is, putting blindfolds on people and letting them sample two different kinds of chocolate. One was an ordinary, don’t-pay-much-for-it kind, and the other a pricy brand which cost five times as much.

The people couldn’t tell the difference. Just as many liked the cheaper chocolate as the premium variety.

Hey, that proves chocolate’s chocolate, and you don’t need to bust the bank to relish that good stuff slithering down your throat.

And the result wasn’t surprising. Similar blind taste tests have proven most people -- even wine snobs -- can’t differentiate between a bottle that costs 8 bucks and one that sets you back $75 or more.

• Sign of the times: Americans don’t trust each other anymore.

A recent survey showed that more than two-thirds of Americans don’t think they can trust people in everyday dealings. That’s down from one-third about four decades ago.

Fewer than one in three people expressed trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road or people they meet while traveling.

Political and social scientists say that makes everything harder and is probably one reason for the partisan political gridlock and rancor that exist today.

And unfortunately, most people have those opinions set by the time they’re in their mid-20s, so the hope of a newfound reversal of this trend appears unlikely.

That’s too bad, but not surprising.

• Cable news channels are misnamed.

They should be called cable blather channels. Cable everybody-yells-at-one-time channels. Cable my-opinion-is-the-only-one-that-matters channels.

Or maybe just cable please-turn-the-damned-thing-off channels.

But not cable news channels.

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