Monday, June 16, 2008

Reason #8: The Octopus

You remember the brilliant "winebot" idea? How the PLCB was going to get a contractor to open automated "wine kiosks" in grocery stores? I told you how they were going to use fingerprints and other biometrics to identify you and confirm your age.

Subject...identified...Nate "The Wino" fixed address...please wait a minimum of...30 seconds...before handing your purchase to the underage person standing beside you with the cash in...his...hand...thank you for shopping at the Wine Kiosk!

But I missed something, which I just noticed in a Chicago Tribune reprint of a Morning Call story. Check this out.

Union head [Wendell] Young [IV, president of Local 1776 of the Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents state store clerks and assistant managers] said the bottles would be etched at the time of sale with identification numbers that could be traced back to the buyer.


Reason #8:

Too Much Information

Like that idea? After all, who needs to register guns when you can register bottles of wine? Once they register the bottles that are being sold in the kiosks, why would they not register every bottle sold in the store? And then...anyone remember the guy in Lebanon, PA, who told his doc he had "a few beers after work" and the doctor dropped a dime on him and had his driver's license suspended, based on a DUI conviction from three decades before?

I testified about the futility of keg registration before a joint committee of the PA legislature back a few years. One of the other people testifying was a guy who'd lost his underage son in a drunk driving accident. He wanted the State to tag every bottle of liquor and wine sold at State Stores, every keg and case sold at beer distributors, on credit or cash, so that any empty could be traced back to when/where/who bought it.

I thought that was crazy at the time -- I still do! -- and the legislators didn't seem wild about it either. But with the wine kiosk thing, it appears that the PLCB doesn't think it's necessary to get legislation to do the identistuff, which is seriously troubling.

But how far off is it now? When I buy booze at the State Store, I use my debit or credit card, and I get a receipt with every bottle listed on it. How do I know that information isn't saved? It may be paranoid to think they save it, but it may be optimistic to think that they don't. And once again, we have no other options.

I'm no conspiracy theorist. But when it comes to not keeping info on what I'm buying, booze-wise, I'll trust the corner booze store before I trust the State. For one thing, if I've got corner booze stores, I can buy at any one I want, and the info doesn't get compiled from the aggregate; if I buy anywhere in PA, that's potentially on my record. For another, there are more ways to opt out of privately-owned data-gathering schemes.

The PLCB should be abolished because granting the State too much information, more information than it needs, is not a good idea in these days of data-mining and info-insecurity. How much booze I buy, what booze I buy, and where I buy it is no one's business but my own...until I start abusing it. I've got nothing to hide, but it's not everyone's business.The PLCB clearly has a mindset that disagrees with that.

This reason may seem a bit whacky, a little hard-shelled. Me, I find the idea of this state agency that doesn't seem to feel that it needs further legislative authorization to start gathering this kind of information about me...troubling. We could write that into law, but it would be easier to just do the right thing: privatize booze sales in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


Anonymous said...

Wacky? Not even. I don't believe the invasive powers of government are there for my benefit, ever. In fact, the reasons being posted in this blog for the dismantling of the PLCB are becoming increasingly compelling.

On another note, I was recently in the second-largest liquor store in the state (Pittsburgh area) and it was less than half the size of a Binny's (Chicago chain), and the bourbon selection was no better than what's available in my local premium selection store. Why? Because the PLCB offers a pitiful selection, AND IT'S SHRINKING!

They had a bigger area for bourbon in this state store (gotta love that term), but instead of more brands, there were four or five fronts for each brand. Don't have selection? Just fluff up what you've got and they'll all think your doing a GREAT job!

The last time I was in Binny's, they had three times the selection in the same space as in Pgh. Hell, we can't even get bourbon from every distillery that produces it. No Four Roses here, pal (unless you count the contract-produced Bulleit). No Willett. You CAN get ONE bottle from Barton. WOO-HOO! Yet we waste space on Wild Turkey 80 proof. Yeah, prices are good here... on what you CAN get.

Rich said...

IMHO, you can always circumvent the system. So wine bottles are etched with a number...uh, etch it unreadable OR transfer to a new container and smash the original to smitherines. Not that I am condoning circumvention, I'm just mentioning that it can be done.

I read your article about keg registration. If you can come up with a fake ID, you can give fake info on a registration form. Easy, chances are the info on the ID is fake to begin with so just match it. Done.

What I'm saying is...the law can ALWAYS be circumvented and abused. More secure ID's, someone will eventually figure it out, or an insider will turn corrupt. There's always a way, which is why I agree that more control is always a bad doesn't ever solve any problem, it just makes the enforcement and enactment more expensive thus costing us tax dollars.