Friday, May 27, 2011

Update those RSS feeds

Effective immediately my blog has moved! Please join me at txmere.com.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Glistening white buttocks

It would've been fun to have been in the newsroom the day those words made it into a headline. Yes, I even read the comments. You almost have to, don't you?

I think this characterization is as funny, if not more so. (Hat tip to a certain Higbe.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

A bit of family history, by way of the history of Wilson County, TN

This was really interesting to find (h/t to my sister): A Historical Sketch Of the Little Community “Vesta” From Its First Settlement to the Present Time (1819 ~ 1988) penned by my great-aunt, Carrie (Sanders) Harris Lannom. A neighbor of hers met her several years ago and duplicated the only copy in existence (!) of this work. He then posted it online where it could be found by those interested in Vesta/the Glade/Gladeville.

Aunt Carrie died almost four years ago--three weeks before my mother did. I wish I'd known about this when she was still alive so I could've talked to her about it!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Comparing and contrasting.

I never knew Erik Ainge was an addict, just like I never knew Henry Granju was one until almost a year ago.

This caught my attention, though:

I went to Tennessee to visit friends, and I had some trouble with the law. It never got reported because the cops were Tennessee fans, and they saw how bad a shape I was in. It was so bad that I don't even want to talk about it. I was cuffed, but instead of busting me, the cops called somebody in town that knew me.
Erik was in rehab two days after that. Henry was apparently arrested once but now is dead. The difference is striking to me. Did this happen in Knoxville? He doesn't say, probably on purpose. Wouldn't it have been nice for law enforcement officers to have shown compassion for an 18-year-old who was beaten to a pulp instead of treating him as a throwaway?

There's a pretty scary lesson in there somewhere.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Debunking, part 3: "A few who are whining..."

The truth regarding this myth is so self-evident as to almost not being worth an entire blog post. Liquor store owners (and prominent Baptist preachers) have said that "not that many people" are interested in having wine available in grocery stores. We obviously know that's not true. The Red White & Food campaign has over 25,000 members. (Almost 26,000, I now understand.) There have been 28 editorials in favor and none opposed. And there was that MTSU poll showing Tennesseans to be "enthusiastically in favor."

It's so silly I don't want to even write any more about that.

Instead I'll write about one Baptist preacher in particular who seems to made it his second mission in life to legislate Tennessee's morality. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Chuck Groover of Victory Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet. Now, I'm not Baptist and wasn't raised as such. I was raised in the Church of Christ and one of my parents was a minister until I was in college. I was not raised in a household of drinkers. Not because my parents found alcohol to be sinful (some do; mine don't), it's because they wanted to set a positive example for others and they didn't want to be seen as doing anything in the realm of leading others astray. I just wanted to put that out there so it was clear the kind of home I come from.

My parents were also reasonable enough to know that their views were not the same as others'. That was okay with them. I would go to friends' houses to eat dinner and their parents would have a glass of wine with dinner. Even while in the throes of active ministry, my parents did not try to convince other people that their method was the only right method.

Chuck Groover does not share this belief, so it seems. When he appeared at the legislative study session in December, 2009, he had a lot to say about "other people." He claimed that people pushing for this legislation were pushing a "self-centered lifestyle," and that the bill did not enjoy broad support because it was just "a few who are whining." He saw "no common sense in making wine readily available to impulse buyers." He thinks we should instead have compassion for our neighbors so they won't be tempted.

I assume Chuck Groover has not walked down the frozen pizza aisle at Kroger. Across the aisle from the pizza is almost an entire store-length of "temptation."

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," he also said.

The thing is, Mr. Groover, it is broke[n]. You can say whatever you want from your pulpit and your church's tax-exempt status is (amazingly) protected; you continue to enjoy government protection as the liquor store owners currently also do. They run a monopoly that should be disrupted. Whether you think your congregants need to run around drinking is a completely different issue.

Also I just want to remind everyone that this is the same dude who whined about having to wait in line while someone of legal age comes to scan the beer of the person in front of him because the clerk was too young to touch it. Maybe that's what this is all really about.

Remember: wine vote tomorrow! See you there, Chuck!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Debunking, part 2: No spike in underage drinking

I can't decide whether the opposition's "but all the kids will start drinking it!" argument is the dumbest or second-dumbest of their reasons to oppose. OK, I thought about it for an entire 30 seconds. It's the second-dumbest; the actual dumbest reason will be another post for another day.

Do you remember being 18-20? I do. Matthew Hurtt does. He had this to say yesterday:

If I had consumed alcohol as a youth, I can tell you right now I would have been naive and chosen some silly drink like Natural Ice, commonly known by youngsters as “Natty Ice,” or Pabst Blue Ribbon – it has to be good, right? After all, it got a blue ribbon.
Jokes aside, think about it. Beer is cheaper by volume and liquor will get you drunk faster. Underage drinkers aren't trying to have a glass of wine with dinner--their goal is something else.

Yesterday I posted a 2006 study [PDF reminder] done in Massachusetts. It had some pertinent numbers regarding underage drinkers via a "recent" Columbia study (sorry, I don't have a link). According to the subjects in the Columbia study, the drink of choice for those under 21 were as follows:
  • 71.5% beer
  • 20.8% liquor
  • 7.7% wine
Overall wine accounted for only 2.9% of total consumption in underage drinkers.

Aside from wine not being the first choice of minors when it comes to getting buzzed, there's another reason selling wine in grocery stores won't increase the rate of underage drinkers: kids don't buy alcohol from grocery stores.  According to that Columbia study, 85% of them obtain alcohol from sources other than retail: they'll instead get it from home, from other adults, or friends. Furthermore the MA study states:
Common sense dictates that minors seeking to buy alcohol are extremely unlikely to choose to stand in a supermarket checkout line where they are likely to encounter parents' friends, teachers, and coaches.
Last, but certainly not least, we have a tiny little issue of the Tennessee Responsible Vendor Law. This state is the first to institute mandatory carding  of anyone purchasing beer for off-premises consumption. It also created a Responsible Vendor Program, which is a voluntary thing stores can do. ABC oversees the program and all clerks undergo ABC-approved server training courses. I can tell you that I am only carded about half the time in liquor stores but am carded 100% of the time when purchasing beer (or aromatic bitters!) at the grocery store. I know liquor store owners love to tell you that their employees are the only ones who can be trusted not to sell to minors, but that just isn't supported by research either.

Exhibit 4-1 in the MA study (page 25) has a table that shows data from 2005 on violations for sales to minors:
  • Package stores, 64%
  • Convenience/variety stores, 19%
  • Internet sales/shipping, 14%
  • Grocery stores, 0%
  • Other, 3%
Now, OK, that data was from 2005 in Massachusetts, but, like I said yesterday, I'm still waiting on the opposition to show us any kind of data that supports their claims. To date, there has not be a single study proving a correlation between wine in grocery stores and underage drinking. To claim otherwise in the face of research to the contrary is ignorant at best and purposely deceptive at worst.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Debunking, part 1: Liquor stores will not be run out of business

One of the first scare tactics liquor store owners throw out in support of keeping Prohibition-era laws on the books is that changing them (thereby opening up more avenues of competition) would be disastrous for their business. They would ALL go under--all 500+ of them--taking a number of jobs with them. The only guy still making any money would be the guy who makes tumbleweeds.

The facts may be inconvenient to the TWSRA, but not only does research not support that claim, 33 other states prove quite the opposite every single day.

First let's look at some numbers. When I talk about liquor store owners, what I do know? According to the 2007 Economic Census, there were 512 establishments listed as "beer, wine, and liquor stores" and the average sales for that year was $1.13M per store. (Note that, unlike other states, Tennessee does not currently allow a person to own more than one store.) And we are to believe that consumers are going to take all that disposable income that they used to spend at the locally-owned package store and go spend it all in some big box national chain with out-of-state owners.

Will that happen? A 2004 study by American Economics Group [PDF alert] says not only will it not; research reveals that the number of liquor stores will increase. (PS: check the note on the graphics--in direct opposition to what Bard Quillen had to say, the study uses population numbers of residents over the age of 21.)

The data show unequivocally that increasing wine outlets in a restrictive state above the median number of outlets per capita for all states will not force a collapse in the number of liquor stores. The impact on liquor stores will be a reduction in the amount of the "monopoly profits" conferred on them by states that restrict the number of stores below a competitive level.
Two pages later, that study outlines how lower prices allows a state to potentially recapture some of the revenue it loses when its residents travel to other states (say, Trader Joe's in Atlanta) to purchase cheaper wine there.

Wait, so we prove basic economic theory--competition in a marketplace results in lower prices and benefits the consumers--and the number of stores serving them goes UP?

See page 19 of the AEG study.
There is a strong and persistent relationship between the number of wine outlets per capita and the number of liquor stores a state supports. Quite the contrary of what some believe, the number of liquor outlets increases as the number of wine outlets grows. The competitive market supports more liquor stores than restrictive states allow.
Pretty sure that means new jobs, too.

Here's what a couple of academics in New York [PDF] had to say regarding that state's similar fight:

According to Appleseed, liquor stores would lose about 15% of their wine sales to supermarkets, which represents a 6%-8% average reduction it total sales per store. However, allowing liquor stores to sell other products could offset this small decrease in average sales.
I've actually seen figures smaller than that in terms of expected impact on liquor stores. One study done in Massachusetts in 2004 found that wine represented around 3.5% of sales in grocery stores, that only about 7% of customers purchased wine (they cited one in 14 customers), that more than 93% of wine were accompanied by the sales of other items, and the average wine purchase per visit was 1.6 bottles.

In short, we have a number of studies disproving liquor store owners' claims that their businesses would shrivel up and die. I've yet to see a single study backing up that anecdote.

Yet again, however, I am reminded of what bar owners across the state said four years ago when the smoking ban was being discussed: "My customers will stop coming here and I'll have to close down and lay off all my employees." Similarly that was not based upon fact, and was actually refuted by what had already happened (or not happened) in other states. And, of course, none of those doomsday predictions ever came to fruition. In fact, there's a really great parallel to be found in this KNS article from the senior VP of Ruby Tuesday:
“We haven’t seen it have an impact on our business (in other states),” Johnson said. “If it’s applied across the board, it doesn’t keep people from coming to a restaurant they enjoy coming to.”

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Debunking, a prologue

Myth: -noun  an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.

There are several arguments against the sales of wine in grocery stores that liquor store owners are repeatedly trotting out to media and consumers. What's funny (?) is that the more they parrot these myths, the less Tennesseans tend to buy into them. To wit: Tennesseans, according to that new MTSU poll, are more in agreement (69%) over this issue than over health care, teacher tenure, guns, or immigration. In 2009, MTSU found 62% in favor.

Please, liquor store owners and lobbyists, by all means, keep talking. You're making it easier for us.

But that gauntlet aside, I want to take a look at these concerns the opposition has to wine in grocery stores. We know they want to keep their government-sanctioned business protection as long as humanly possible, but what excuses are they giving for why they need them?

1. Competition from grocery stores will force liquor stores out of business and take their jobs.
2. Underage drinking will increase because of an increase in availability of wine.
3. Not that many people want to be able to buy wine in grocery stores.
4. Alcohol needs tighter controls than clothing or food and grocery stores aren't equipped to uphold the law.

This is Social Media Week over at Red White & Food. I'd like to spend the next few days shedding some light on the myths listed above. Not a single one is factual and I'm going to explain why.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Update on Justice For Henry

Well obviously you know by now there isn't any. You also know that his mother has gone public with everything she's spent the past nine months keeping under wraps. Today's blog post (part 5) is especially chilling. Read the links for context if you haven't already. Today she discusses the gross mishandling on the part of the Knox County Sheriff's Department regarding evidence. We've known all along (because she said so at the time) that KCSO didn't ever speak with the family much, that she had to beg them to follow leads she herself chased down (while also working full time and mothering five children, including a newborn), and that they went to the local newspaper with information about Henry's autopsy without releasing to the family first (the day after the funeral, no less).

In short, I think we can all agree that KCSO has effed up, big time.

And yet here's the frightening thing. Katie says:

This morning (March 4, 2011), a spokesperson for the Knox County DA’s office told a WUOT interviewer that in his two decades with the DA’s office, he believes that Henry’s case represents one of the most professional and thorough criminal investigations ever undertaken by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
Wow. I'm sure glad I don't live in Knox County anymore. Furthermore, as I've stated before, if I had a high-school-aged kid, I would have serious misgivings about sending them to Knoxville for education. If you can't trust your county's law enforcement and investigative bodies to--oh, I don't know--do their jobs properly, how are we supposed to feel protected and well-served? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it's a thankless job and it doesn't pay enough and blah, blah, blah. I know that. But no one held a gun to anyone's head and said, "You must go work for J.J. Jones!" Obviously a person would feel called to that line of work in order to enter it. And if they don't have more pride in their work product, or at the very least if they don't feel they owe the same procedures to Henry or Johnia as they did to Chris and Channon, well, that's pathetic.

The state of Tennessee has laws on the books allowing prosecution of the dealers in overdose cases. We know there are laws regarding what happens when a person is savagely attacked. Based on their inaction, I have no choice but to conclude that KCSO refused to work this case.

UPDATE: Oh, and I forgot about the person in the DA's office who said Katie needed to "shut up and concentrate on the remaining children she still has." And also called the investigation "futile." http://sunsite.utk.edu/wuot/mt/podcast/030411Granju.mp3

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The math on wine (and other alcohol)

Quite a treat on the Red White & Food blog today for you math geeks. I admit to having been in possession for over a week now of multiple studies from other states and have been remiss in that I haven't reported any of the findings therein regarding wine sales. But do yourself a favor and go check out the correlation between wine sales and consumption. The facts just don't bear out the opposition's stance that there would be no change if this legislation passed.

And bonus points for the Naked Gun reference...