08 June 2011

Liquor In Private or: Why the Fuck isn't The Stranger Making Sense?

Once again Costco is on the warpath to privatize liquor sales in Washington State less than a year after their last (and not first) failed attempt. As reported in The Stranger's own news-heavy pages, this time Costco has a plan that just might work, having ostensibly "solved" many of the issues that caused voters, Unions and even the beer producer's lobby to balk last time around.

The Stranger is no stranger to pro-privatization agitation. They are apparently so bent on privatization of liquor that they will come up with any reason to argue against the WSLCB. Last December David Frizelle wrote an article which rightly berated WSLCB enforcement officers for allegedly discriminating against gay bars in their "enforcement". He further pointed out that during the snowstorm in November, a number of WSLCB stores failed to open. Again both legitimate complaints, but hardly grounds for privatization.
For some reason Frizelle assumes that privately owned stores that sold liquor would adhere strictly to their hours and that the people enforcing legal liquor sales in a privatized world would be entirely unbiased and fair. It's a stretch at best Dave. Secondly, if Frizelle wanted booze that bad during the snowstorm, why not go to a bar, or did he forget what the first part of his rant was about? If you need to get drunk at home that bad, buy some beer or wine prom a private retailer.

It seems clear that Frizelle's and The Stranger's insistence on buying hard liquor on a whim is based more on personal convenience and a failure to plan than any bizarre sense of fairness.

But now, as Costco revs up another campaign, The Stranger is changing it's tune, a little bit. Columnist Cienna Madrid points out quite commendably that if SB 5942 passes it will essentially be a handout to the major grogery retailers like QFC, Safeway and yes Costco. Some smaller stores like one that I am familiar with, simply do not have the space to add liquor. What Madrid does however is to use entirely misleading language to undermine her anti-corporate message with pro-privatization rhetoric. Excuse me if I'm wrong, but I'll throw out a wild guess that Ms. Madrid is too young and American to have experienced East Berlin (as am I). But the name does conjure an image doesn't it. Furthermore, the majority of WSLCB stores don't close, as they allegedly did in the DDR at 6:00pm, but at 8 or 9 by which time any serious drinker should have already engaged. Comparisons to Prohibition (as Costco's SVP is quoted in Madrid's article) are just ludicrous. Prohibition meant none at all, ever.
Again, while Madrid argues against corporatization, she still supports privatization.

The usual arguments against loss of State revenue and increased availability to underage drinkers aside, there are some things which a supposedly liberal paper like The Stranger ought to consider before advocating privatization.
The reason Unions are pushing back against privatization is not because they want to protect high paid jobs. WSLCB jobs are not highly paid I assure you. These unionized jobs, with health care and "benefits", both of which The Stranger has expressed support, would, in the event of privatization go to non-unionized, that is "at-will" employees (including Costco), or in the best case scenario to unionized grocery workers at national retail chains notorious for worker harassment and intimidation.

So again, it appears that The Stranger's advocacy for alcohol privatization is based on a desire for personal convenience rather than any serious consideration of the implications. If the later were true the use of provocative and ultimately misleading language wouldn't be necessary. An easier solution seems plausible. If the State doesn't want to give up control of liquor, but the public wants more access a compromise must be reached. The Seattle Police have to go through a cultural diversity course, if WSLCB enforcement officers appear to be discriminating they should do the same. Officers who continue to discriminate should be discharged. The Stranger has advocated this for the SPD, why not here? Second, why not extend WSLCB store hours?
I'm sure there are arguments against both of these, primarily from the notoriously recalcitrant WSLCB, resistance to change tends to ossify in any institution, but there is no reason other than stubbornness that a compromise can't be reached. And it must if anyone but Corporate Capital is to win. The Stranger and other papers of similarly objective content could get behind positive WSLCB reforms, the State wouldn't have to lose it's liquor revenue and workers wouldn't have to be trampled under the Corporate foot yet again.

07 June 2011

Department of Right Wing Security

An interesting article slated to appear in the next issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report magazine includes information from a former DHS investigator stating that under pressure from conservative politicians, DHS no longer investigates domestic extremist groups despite their increasing activity and violence. Check out more HERE.

02 June 2011

Bleeding Hearts

I try and contribute to the causes I believe in despite my modest income. I suppose some people might try and focus their efforts on one organization or issue in particular in order to concentrate their energies instead of doling them out bit by bit like pissing a little in lots of different oceans. Maybe it would do more good that way, I don't know because that's not how I do it. I'm a sucker for just about any cause that I find compelling or important and as a result I've ended up where I am now, thinking I should have chosen my battles more surgically.

Since any program, foundation or organization even remotely resembling social or moral responsibility is getting a very crocodilian and hand wringing evisceration from State and Federal Democrapitalists and even wealthy donors, every cause I've even looked at longingly is knocking on my wallet asking for help. Even the Seattle Public Library is now soliciting for donations through the mail. As my room mate put it "All Microsoft would have to do if they truly stood by their professed commitment to fostering education, would be to wave at the Library and their financial woes could be solved."

Maybe they will, maybe they wont, but public education and public space, (libraries are one of the last non-commercial public places in this country) however are not terribly high on the plutocracy's love-child list these days. In any case, I'll be paying of my fines and then some in the next few days, but in some ways I wish I hadn't been so philanthropic (and believe me I really haven't been) so I wouldn't be persistently harassed with need. Jeeze, I'm starting to sound like a politician.