Competition - It's Hard!

Looks like Gov. Corbett is going to give Pennsylvania another shot at joining the free world, at least in the realm of alcohol. I'm still looking through the details of what's been announced, but it sounds pretty good so far. Anything to privatize the PLCB out of the liquor-sales business is a step in the right direction.

Not everyone agrees, however...
Rich Rosella, whose Allegheny 6 Pack and Doghouse in Cheswick sells sandwiches and six-packs, said expanding the number of venues where customers can buy beer would make his license "pretty much worthless."

"If you issue 'X' amount of licenses, you're not going to sell that much more beer," Rosella said. "There's only so many beer drinkers in the state, and all you're going to do is water down the business of the places that have been selling it."

Distributors also worry that few independent business owners will be able to compete against chain stores that can offer lower prices and longer hours.

"We don't want to be legislated out of business," said Vince Altieri, owner of Jeannette Distributing.

Rosella argues that convenience stores, such as the Sheetz located near his business, are at a competitive advantage by staying open for 24 hours and offering products from gasoline to milk to tobacco.

“If Sheetz wants to put me out of business, they can, because they can sell beer at cost,” Rosella said. “There's absolutely no way I can compete.”

Source: Trib Live - Beer sellers say governor’s proposal to privatize wine, liquor sales opens new can of worries

Sorry, Vince, but if your business model depends on an artificial, government-created environment, then you're being legislated into business - not the other way around. Corbett's plan will just let the normal competitive market signal where licenses should be allocated.

Senator Casey (D - Moronic)

Senator wants accounting from US Airways on Philly fares
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has sent a letter to US Airways objecting to the upcoming increase in the cost of flights from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.

The Post-Gazette reported Tuesday that when Southwest Airlines drops its flights between the two cities next month, the price for a US Airways round-trip ticket will increase from $118 plus taxes to $698 plus taxes. US Airways would be the only airline operating direct flights between the cities.
Mr. Casey asked the airline to provide him with regular updates on the impact the increase would have on Pennsylvania travelers.
Maybe US Airways has been pricing flights way below cost just to stay competitive with Southwest. Maybe now US Airways is just raising rates to finally cover the cost of carrying passengers from Pittsburgh to Philly. Maybe it's just the opposite and US Airways sees an opportunity to screw over its potential customers and charge them way more than they need to charge. I really don't care! They're able to do so in a free market and they'll have to suffer the consequences, whether they deserve them or not.

I'm really not sure how in the hell this is any of Senator Casey's business. And I'm not really sure where he thinks he has the authority to "request regular updates."

If only Senator Casey was as concerned with what the government's policies are doing to drive up the unavoidable costs of living - food, gas, energy - as he is with how much an airline is charging someone to avoid a simple five hour drive.

More Liquor Law Stupidity

Bill Toland has an article in the Post-Gazette on the Pittsburgh Whiskey and Fine Spirits Festival. One of the vendors will be the brand new Wigle Whiskey which is just about to open in the Strip District here in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, they won't be able to actually let people sample their whiskey. Why?
Wigle Whiskey -- being produced in the Strip District, in Pittsburgh's first whiskey distillery since the Prohibition era -- will not be among the spirits sampled. Though the festival had advertised Wigle's presence in press releases, Wigle won't be pouring tomorrow, because the federal government has not approved Wigle's bottle labels.
Got that? We're not allowed to actually try this local whiskey because at least one federal agency is required to approve the bottle labels.


In addition to Wigle, an Indian whiskey (Amrut, out of Bangalore) is now available in Pennsylvania but, since it's not a regularly stocked item, you have to special order it. And special orders are done by the case!
Amrut brands are now available in Pennsylvania, but only by special-order -- meaning that if you want to try a bottle, you have to buy six of them, because the PLCB doesn't maintain an Amrut inventory.

So, to recap, if you want to take this highly-rated whiskey for a test drive, instead of buying one bottle of Fusion for $67, you have to buy six, for $400.
I have mentioned this before regarding Evan Williams 1783 bourbon and the PLCB is still a bloated train-wreck of government stupidity. It's time to privatize liquor sales in Pennsylvania.

PLCB: Pot, meet kettle

So the debate about kicking the state government out of the business of selling alcohol is pretty heated here in Pennsylvania. Of course, the union (UFCW Local 1776) is lobbying very strongly against privatization and one of their arguments is that, since there is no profit incentive, the government employees are better at preventing sales to minors and intoxicated people.
A 39-year-old Liquor Control Board enforcement officer was charged with driving under the influence after a crash in downtown Pittsburgh late Thursday night.

Tyrribea Flood was drunk when she crashed a state vehicle at the intersection of Ninth and Penn avenues shortly before midnight, according to Channel 11 News reporter Lori Houy.
Source: WPXI - Liquor Control Board Officer Charged With DUI After Downtown Crash

Right. Maybe Ms. Flood was just doing work-related research. So what exactly makes the PLCB a better watchdog again?

Quote of the Day - Governor Brown of California

To the Members of the California State Senate:

I am returning Senate Bill 105 without my signature.

This measure would impose criminal penalties on a child under the age of 18 and his or her parents if the child skis or snowboards without a helmet.

While I appreciate the value of wearing a helmet, I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state. Not every human problem deserves a law.

I believe parents have the ability and responsiblity to make good choices for their children.


Edmund G. Brown Jr.
California Governor Brown, Senate Bill 105 Veto Message

Via Say Uncle

Quote of the Day - Handjob or Cancer?

Today's QotD comes from a video by Rebecca Watson, of Skepchick, titled F the TSA:
My main concern at this point is deciding which I prefer the TSA to give me: a handjob or cancer.
She continues:
Now, of course that's a joke. ... First of all, yes I'm kidding. I don't think that I'm going to get a handjob. As I understand the term, handjob is generally a pleasant experience and usually involves, I don't know, a glass of wine before hand. What the TSA is planning to do is something more akin to sexual assault.

Cancer? I probably won't get cancer from the TSA. But, of course, what I'm referring to are the backscatter x-ray machines. However, there is a group of concerned scientists out there who think that the FDA's science is not exactly sound.
And also, I don't think that it's protecting anyone. I don't feel like I'm any safer because people went through these machines. A few people took issue with my joke about cancer because they felt that I was sort of fear-mongering in a way. I don't think that's fear-mongering to make a joke about the potential real effects that these machines could be having. What I do think is fear-mongering is forcing people to give up their privacy and go through machines that force them to be photographed naked basically. And if they don't do it you threaten them with a public groping. That, to me, is using fear to reach your ends.
Well said, Ms. Watson! As I've said previously, the TSA is nothing but security theater designed to make the general public think they're safe.

I'll take 'Best way to run a business' for $200, Alex

In Thursday's Post-Gazette: Liquor store privatization hits major roadblock
Talking to reporters this afternoon, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati was critical of the current plan from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai to auction off licenses for the stores.

Mr. Scarnati, of Jefferson, questioned whether the state would be getting the most profit possible in that sale, given what he sees as constraints on the profitability of those stores.

"I don't think that we have allowed the Liquor Control Board to run like a business," he said. "We're the ones with the handcuffs on them, and then we're out there saying, 'Well, this is an archaic, terrible system and doesn't work.' Well, take the handcuffs off of them, get the bottom line better, and you'll get a better price."

He suggested allowing those stores more flexibility in pricing, based on the product and geography, as initial reforms.
I'm going to suggest, Mr. Scarnati, that the best way to let it run like a business is to let it be run BY a business. Let's ignore, for a minute, the fact that the state government should not even BE in the liquor store business. Does anyone think it's a bad idea to have the same Board that is tasked with enforcing liquor laws and reducing liquor consumption also be the Board that is tasked with running alcohol sales like a business?

Pennsylvania has some of the most backward and archaic laws regarding alcohol out of any of the states in the country. Let's work on getting the government out of the sales business once and for all.

PLCB vs Turzai/Corbett - Round 1

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: That's the spirit! Proposal would get state out of the liquor business

Looks like Pennsylvania just may get a shot at kicking the bloated PLCB dinosaur to the curb! We've tried several times in the past, but the unions were always too strong. This time, however, Republicans have an advantage: a 19 vote edge in the house, a 10 vote edge in the Senate, and a Republican Governor who has said he favors privatizing the PLCB.

Details of Rep. Mike Turzai's bill, HB 11, include auctioning off 750 licenses for large retailers and 500 licenses for small retailers. Beer distributors would also be eligible to bid on the licenses which might be the best part - being able to buy beer, wine, and liquor all in the same store! No more driving all over the place to jump through the archaic hoops the PLCB requires.

The Post-Gazette article focuses on the financial aspect - privatizing the PLCB would likely bring in a significant amount of money up front via the license auctions and would likely continue to bring in a solid stream of tax revenue. This is great news! They also discuss the added convenience to the customers and how this would remove the incentive for people who live near the state border to drive to neighboring states to purchase alcohol. Another great reason to disband the PLCB monopoly.

They overlook the biggest reason I'm in favor of this bill: It's not the government's DAMN JOB! There is no good reason for the state government to be in charge of the sale of liquor - that's rightly the domain of the private market. I'd be in favor of privatizing the PLCB even if there was a loss in revenue to the state. That would just mean the PA residents would be keeping more of their own money and spending less in taxes.

Cheers to Mr. Turzai for introducing this bill and I urge all of our Representatives and Senators, as well as Governor Corbett, to support House Bill 11.

TSA: Incompetence Redefined (Yet Again)

Authorities Investigate Stun Gun Found on JetBlue Plane
An image of the Striker 1800 stun gun was obtained by Fox 5 News. It was found by a cleaning crew inside the back pocket of a seat on board Jet Blue flight 1179.

The plane had just arrived from Boston and all of the passengers were off of the plane when it was found.
I'd say that the incompetence of the TSA is stunning. But they fail so often and so easily that it's really just a mundane story. I'm guessing they were too busy searching the underwear of wheelchair-bound grandmothers and feeling up six-year-olds.

It almost seems like they're being a bunch of ass-clowns on purpose - considering the "security" they provide is just badly-produced security theater, that's not surprising.

I do not think that means what you think it means ...

LTE in July 5, 2011 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Kids need to be protected from video trash

Our Supreme Court ought to be ashamed of the latest decision it made about video games ("Supreme Court Strikes Violent Video Game Restrictions," June 28).

Is it no wonder many countries are so totally against our values when it comes to TV shows and music and want to ban our influence from their citizens? I wish we could ban so much of the trash that is available for our children in this country.

It is said that we should rely on parents to examine and decide what their children should or should not view. Some parents will. But who helps and guides those children in homes where there is little apparent supervision and children are left to continue to make harmful decisions?

Yes, I understand the argument about freedom of speech and such, but historically when folks lobby long and strong enough (money talks), some considerations of freedoms fall to the wayside.

Come on, USA, how about instead of choosing to pour more and more money into the video industry, we choose what is best for our children and, for once, just once, decide on the side of our youth?

Observatory Hill

Wow. Ok, Joyce, which is it? Are we banning things or are we allowing people to choose? Or are a small group of people choosing to ban something for everyone?

I'll be the first to agree that much of the "entertainment" that is produced in this country is utter crap. It's mindless nonsense designed to remove the need for logical and rational thought. And to sell advertising. And, as much as I wish for that nonsense to not be available, I am completely and totally against having the government force that to be the case. Down that road lies only danger.

And I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that other countries are "so totally against our values when it comes to TV shows and music and want to ban our influence from their citizens" - have you seen some of the nonsense that comes out of just about every European country? Japan? The Middle East? We have no monopoly on violence, sex, or stupidity.

It's easy to ask the government to do your job for you. It's much more difficult when you actually have to be the one to say No and set a good example. Your request for the government to ban something you don't like is the kind of behavior you decry in your letter: "But who helps and guides those children in homes where there is little apparent supervision and children are left to continue to make harmful decisions?" By outsourcing your parental responsibilities to the government, you're no longer guiding the children and they're certainly not getting any lessons about how to make good decisions. All you're doing is freeing up more time to watch So You Think You Can Dancing with the American Idols Got Talent.

No thank you. As a father of two, I think I'm more capable of successfully raising my children and being a better role model for them than some faceless bureaucrat.