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The stupid ideas just keep coming

19 comments

Two more examples of how not everybody shares equally in intelligence.

Stupid Idea #1

In North Carolina, they have 80 wineries that bring in more than $800 million a year to the economy. It’s become America’s tenth-biggest producer. So important is the industry that the state’s Department of Commerce commissioned a study earlier this year about wine tourism; among its findings were that by far the majority of people visit wineries for 2 reasons: to taste wine, and to buy wine.

So you’d think it’d be a no-brainer that when the North Carolina State Fair is held in Raleigh this week, wineries would be allowed to sell wine to the 850,000-plus visitors expected to attend. But no! The state’s Republican Agriculture Commissioner, Steve Troxler, says over his dead body. (For a report on the story in the Winston-Salem Journal, click here.)

Steve “No Wine” Troxler

I Googled Mr. Troxler’s name and found out a few facts about him.

- He’s North Carolina’s first Republican Ag Commish.

- He rode a tractor to his swearing in.

- He’s a tobacco grower. (Way to go, Steve. Alcohol’s bad – tobacco’s good. Huh?)

- Last year, Mr. Troxler and someone named Jeremy Troxler (son? brother? dad?) went to a “Convocation & Pastors’ School” event at Duke, where they presided over a seminar called “Growing in Grace in Rural Communities.” Hmm. I wonder if Jesus would have a word or two for tobacco growers whose products kill millions of people every year.

Stupid Idea #2

Now we’re in England, whose neoprohibitionists are as weird as ours. The government is considering forcing alcohol buyers in stores to use “alcohol-only checkouts which would be operated by specially-trained staff.” The purpose, according to The Telegraph:

“It is hoped it would put shoppers off from buying excessive amounts of alcohol under the scrutiny of fellow customers…”.

Oh, great. Picture it. You stop by Sainsbury’s for a nice bottle of Pommard for dinner, and endure the Perp Walk of Shame while the “normal” shoppers raise their eyebrows and tsk-tsk.

Who’s pushing for this insulting law? An ambitious young MP named Nigel Evans.

Mags & Nige

The Right Hon. Mr. Evans is (you guessed it) a Conservative, Britain’s equivalent of a Republican. Google tells us that Mr. Evans believes that sunspots, not carbon emissions, are the cause of global warming, and declared himself as among those “who don’t like being spoonfed by Al Gore.”

Good lord, why is it always the idiots?

  1. These sure are some fools, but thanks for taking part in not letting it slide by.

  2. Steve .. keep these coming!! This stupidity never ceases to amaze me. First .. I am an independent – never affiliated with any party and have consistently voted across party lines for individuals who look to ameliorate the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in (also I might add a wine enthusiast to the bone!). The Republican party (aka the ultra conservatives) focus on deregulating business at every turn, yet seek on the other hand to regulate our social choice whenever they can. I would continue to fight for every man and woman’s right to practice the religion of their choice (or to practice none if that is their preference) – to be as conservative or liberal in their own lives as they see fit (as long as it does not negatively impact on others). But I would fight just as hard to make sure that these same individuals do not have a say in my choice. I thought this country was based on a plethoria of freedoms … not a platform for conservative inquisition. Keep them coming … maybe we can wake up the clear thinkers across the globe that see the stupidity in forcing social beliefs on others .. reminds me of the stupidity of Prohibition .. for which we are still paying dearly.

  3. In North Carolina, you can still smoke in restaurants. When one of my daughter’s complained to the management, she was reminded that she’s in a tobacco producing state. Maybe Steve Troxler has been smoking too much of his own stuff? Tobacco = tobacco + Nicotine, acetone, cadmium, hexamine, acetic acid, carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, methane, arsenic, DDT/Dieldrin, methanol, butane, ethanol, napthalene, stearic acid, and toluene – all chemicals found in cigarettes = cranky.(www.tobaccofreeutah.org/chemicals.htm)

  4. This is an excellent post but it seems that you accidentally used a stock photo of Jim Laube for Mr. Troxler. Either that or a long lost brother?

  5. Love it! Keep ‘em coming Steve!

  6. Jo
    You seem to know a lot about dangerous-sounding chemicals. And what chemicals might be found in wine, as currently manufactured? Nobody has a clue how much pesticide and fungicide residue is in wine. How about dimethyl dicarbonate (Velcorin)? If you bother to research that, and then find out how widespread its use is, you might never enjoy wine again (or, indeed, many other fruit-based food and beverage products). Yes, I know, it quickly breaks down to a small amount of methanol- not enough to blind you. That defense sounds a lot like what tobacco companies might say about formaldehyde. I am a winemaker, in the same pot with other purveyors of proven addictive drugs that can have serious health consequences when abused, like, ahem, tobacco. Shall we include in the stew symbiotic and peripheral industries, like yours? I think we in the alcohol pot had better be a little cautious when discussing the shade of certain kettles. The French Paradox doesn’t change the fact that alcoholism is a huge world health problem. What are we doing about it? We are making wines with ever higher alcohol levels. When Thomas Jefferson, the patron saint of American wine, extolled the sober character of wine-drinking societies, wine had one third less alcohol than it commonly does today, and it was drunk while eating. He was comparing European wine-drinking habits with the widespread over-consumption of rum and whiskey in America. (I believe T.J. used slaves to grow tobacco, as well as wine grapes. The grapes failed, the tobacco supported his French wine habit. Did you know he secretly composed his own version of the New Testament, based on what he thought Jesus really said?). Just because you abhor smoking doesn’t allow you to abandon logic and law when evaluating the merits of a particular position.

    Steve-
    I think the criticism of a government official who fails to consider the commercial interest of one of his state’s biggest legitimate industries is valid. His religion is irrelevant. The fact that Mr. Troxler may be using his office to confer an unfair disadvantage on an industry other than his family’s is very relevant. I wonder if tobacco is for sale at the fair? If not, he’s beyond criticism. Consider, though, that his personal values have colored his thinking. Let’s be careful that we don’t fall into the same trap. We like wine. Some don’t. North Carolinians apparently like tobacco. You don’t. They are not wrong, unless they contravene our legal and civil rights. Remember, once alcohol WAS made illegal in this country. There are plenty of folks out there who would like to ban it again, along with tobacco, gambling, pornography, homosexuality, and all the other “vices” in our fine little kettle of sin. I have trouble finding a compelling argument against prohibitionism. It boils down to personal freedom against the greater societal good. Can you say that a world without alcohol AND tobacco would not be a better world? We should tread carefully and respectfully, Thomas Jefferson notwithstanding.

  7. Mark, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’ll let Jo reply to your first paragraph. My reply to your second is this: Concerning Mr. Troxler’s religion (not to mention his politics), it seems to me that it’s always people of his persuasion who attempt to tell the rest of us how we ought to live our lives. Mr. Troxler certainly does seem to have allowed his personal values to color, not just his thinking, but his political and professional decision-making. Your pot-vs.-kettle argument just doesn’t wash with me. People who want to ban gambling, porn and homosexuality are WRONG. And if you have trouble finding a compelling argument against prohibitionism, let’s sit together over a bottle of your wine and I’ll explain it to you.

  8. Let’s flip the perspective on this North Carolina issue for a moment:

    Fairs are not sell-a-thons. They are analogous to trade shows where vendors and producers display their products and offer free samples. This is not a swap meet. Fairs (state, county, whatever) are meant to celebrate and put a spotlight on vendors/producers. They are not a sales platform.

    I appreciate the fact that there is a good amount of attrition of interest after a fair. But if you cannot capture attention and interest with a sample at a fair, then that customer is not for you and you should move on to another potential customer. Simple as that.

    This article Steve cites seems to be very partial to the wineries. Since the wineries are crying about not being able to make money at the fair through sales, they should do wine club sign ups or sell shipments to be shipped to customers – if that is allowed within the boundaries of their state.

    Honestly, this is all about money – and particularly about the wineries desires for more of it.
    I am all for enterprise, but there are other solutions. Besides, the North Carolina Wine industry didn’t become #10 in the nation by not being able to sell wine.

  9. @ Arthur: hammer, meet nail. Perfectly written.

    @ Steve: did you check up on Mr. Troxler’s campaign donors? Me thinks there’s some wholesale money in there somewhere.

  10. Lee: It’s hard for me, or any blogger, to do investigative journalism of the kind you suggest. I wish I could! You need a New York Times budget to do it. But thank you for your comment.

  11. Steve
    I admire you as a person who has conviction- as Troxler seems also to have. Although I am slow to categorize people and careful when passing judgement on a person’s point of view, I agree that narrow-mindedness is often the handmaiden of moral certitude, or vice versa. We both know that we would have little to argue about over a bottle of wine, except, perhaps, the wine itself. The invitation is open, nonetheless. You know where to reach me. Mr. Troxler is welcome to join us, and enjoy a cheroot and some sweet tea while we tipple. There should be tolerance, if not honor, among thieves.

    Arthur
    Perhaps you know something I don’t, or are a more astute reader than I. It is not stated in Steve’s blog whether free samples of wine were permitted, but sales prohibited. Did I miss something? I agree that state fairs aren’t necessarily alcohol sales venues, but I’ll bet beer is sold. I think the gist of this blog is that wine faces some unfair state-sanctioned limitations in N.C. Having toured and tasted there, I can assure you they (the N.C. wine industry) need all the support they can get. A few winemaking consultants wouldn’t hurt, either. Alas, they don’t seem to be hiring. I like your “suck it up” attitude, though.

  12. @ Arthur

    Uh…it is all about money so why not sell the stuff at the fair. The fair is about making money for the people who put on the fair whether it’s the state, the fairgrounds, or whoever. Many things are sold at the fair including food, crafts, knick nacks and other garbage so why should wine be any different? The fair is not some feel good down home country ho down, it’s a multi-million dollar business so why can’t the winemakers take advantage of the captive audience?

  13. @ Steve: http://www.followthemoney.org/database/StateGlance/contributor.phtml?d=698256114

    My budget: $0 and I did it while nuking my egg whites.

    I only followed this year’s campaign contributions and checked out only this donor, but it seems Tom E Smith is involved in the grocery business. I wonder if they sell NC wines there?

  14. @ bill:

    Are you in the wine business? If so, then I am amazed that you think that consumers will buy in quantity when they’re probably at the fair for a million other reasons than to buy wine. Arthur’s point, and I can vouch for this based on experience, people will taste, like it, and most likely order it after they leave. If sales are to be made at the fair, it’s in bottles, not cases. Sure, there’s value in bottle sales (repeat business, viral business, etc.), but the best business would be to sign up some one for your club at the fair tasting. If the sales made at the fair also benefit the fair, then great. If not, the best sales are not made at trade shows.

  15. Allie in Cali says:

    Steve – throw in a little Sarah Palin and this blog is the best!

  16. “I can see Russia from my house!”

  17. So why shouldn’t I be able to sell them a bottle if they want to take it home and sign them up for the wine club?

  18. @ bill

    Sure, it’s just not that big of a deal for the hassle. Schlep the wines to the fair tasting, sell some, hopefully sell it all, if not, schlep it back home. Nothing wrong with scratching the itch right there, but it’s small potatoes compared to other venues. Glorified trade shows are great for info gathering, not putting beans on the table.

  19. Having worked for a winery that sold wine at the New York State fair. The potential business, especially for a small winery is in no way insignificant. A bottle to take home will do far more for repeat business than someone trying to remember which wine they liked among 20-30 some odd samples they tried that day whilst engaging in numerous other activities. Long and short of it is that Mr. Troxler does not have the best interests of North Carolina wineries in mind, and it’s his job to do so. Period.

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