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There aughta‘ be a law...

Robert Downes - July 20th, 2009
Random Thought
There aughta‘ be a law...
Robert Downes 7/20/09
Here‘s another idea for marketing Michigan out of its troubles. Allow every restaurant in the state to sell Michigan-made beers and wines without a liquor license.
A bright spot in Michigan‘s economy is the success of our wineries and microbreweries. We have more than 50 wineries in the state, and as Rick Coates has noted in his “Bottoms Up“ column, Michigan is now considered one of the top destinations in America for the quality of its brewpubs and microbrews.
So what is Lansing doing to coax this goose into laying more golden eggs? Lip service.
But imagine the benefits if Michigan reformed its discriminatory liquor license laws in favor of the relaxed approach followed by restaurants in countries around the world.
For a small fee, every restaurant should be allowed to sell Michigan-made beers and wines to their patrons. Beverages from other states or countries would not qualify, and restaurants that cheated would lose their privileges.
This would pump tens (or even hundreds) of millions of dollars into Michigan‘s beer and wine industry, in addition to benefiting thousands of Mom & Pop restaurants that don‘t qualify for a liquor license or can‘t afford one. It would also be a bonanza for state tax revenues.
It‘s a no-brainer to promote your own products in your own state with such a simple expedient.
Currently, our liquor license laws are on par with a state-run organized crime racket that shuts out and punishes small restaurants while extorting obscene fees from bar owners and larger restaurants.
It‘s also absurd that diners can‘t enjoy a bottle of wine in an Italian, Greek or French restaurant that doesn‘t have a liquor license. Or beer in a German restaurant or American steakhouse. These beverages are part of the cultural heritage and cuisine of those institutions and it‘s ridiculous to deny patrons and restaurant owners alike, based on archaic temperance laws dating back to the 1800s.
Michigan has lost billions in new business and tax revenues by ignoring social trends. We need a legislator who‘ll pick up the ball for our state‘s beer and wine industry and run with it for an easy touchdown.

I felt a bit sheepish reading Garrett Ellison‘s excellent letter on “The Myth of Good News“ in this week‘s Express, because for this issue at least, we‘re guilty of being packed with features and lacking in hard news. Fortunately, we have plenty of sparky letters to keep things interesting.
But I too want to heave whenever someone puts forth the bogus idea that newspapers need more “good news,“ because that‘s also a euphemism for “cover-up.“
Take, for example, the cabal of ‘good old boys‘ in Traverse City who tried to engineer the ruin of the Record-Eagle with the dream of bringing a paper to town that would focus on “good news“ as its replacement. They were angry that the paper reported on an underhanded parking deck fiasco in TC and the shady dealings of Meijer‘s in its fight with Acme Township, among other issues.
If TC‘s daily newspaper printed only “good news,“ then none of those stories would have seen the light of day. City taxpayers would be paying for a parking deck we don‘t need during a recession, and a corporate criminal scheme would have undermined the will of voters in Acme Township.
Old-timers often look to the past through pink lemonade spectacles to a time when newspapers printed government handouts as “the news“ and “good news“ ruled the day. Prior to the mid-‘60s, “bad news“ about child abuse, domestic violence, rape, the perils of drunk driving, incest, prostitution, racism, poverty and other social ills didn‘t exist... in the newspaper, at least. At best, “bad news“ was codified in newspapers of the time and being “unsuitable“; at worst, it was kept in the dark and allowed to fester.
One could argue that our country wouldn‘t be in the mess it is today if America‘s financial press had done its job, exposing the evil practices of Wall Street, the banking system, the mortgage bubble and the reckless deregulation policies of the Bush administration. The financial press was too busy covering the “good news“ of the too-good-to-be-true real estate market and the Dow Jones average heading past 14,000 points. But that was before it all came crashing down, with the economy of the entire world losing 30-40 percent of its value. Perhaps a little more “bad news“ would have prevented that disaster and the loss of millions of jobs and retirement plans.

Are you sick of “social networking“ yet? The idea is to link your business, band or pet cause to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, YouTube and a galaxy of websites and blogs. Then you get your friends, old high school chums, distant family and friends of friends to pass on the news about Grandma Cracker‘s Old-Style Tofu Chewing Gum, or whatever you‘re selling, and wait for the bucks to roll in.
The problem with social networking is that everyone‘s piling on, producing a roar of commercial white noise on the Net that we‘ll eventually tune out.
That, and the fact that past a certain point, you don‘t know who your “friends“ are on the Internet. An article in the June issue of the IPBA Independent notes that once you get to the “fourth circle“ of your viral marketing blitz, the pornographers and hookers start showing up, followed by a fifth circle tidal wave of marketers and kooks with messages such as “Amanda is throwing a Striptease Party today!“
Locally, Facebook was recently hacked by a porn ring with the message going viral to many furious members. An in-your-face (literally) porn photo is not the kind of greeting you want to send to your great Aunt Nelly.
It makes you wonder what the next Net craze will be and how to get there before a billion other people do.

Republicans in Congress are worried sick that private health care will soon be a thing of the past and a socialistic big government scheme will take away our cherished access to the doctor of our choice.
Translation: their friends in the big insurance companies face the extremely slight threat of losing a few bucks under the Democrats‘ national health care plan.
Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress hope to be all things to every American, even if national health care requires pandering to those same insurance companies and spending trillions to tweak 85-year-olds back to their teenage state of health.
Either way, no one seems to be throwing around the word “sacrifice“ much in the plans for national health care. And although the results are still out on how the health of the average American will fare under the new plan, one can only imagine that the health insurance companies will come out of this very healthy indeed.

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