Monday, February 02, 2009

SLTrib Editorial: Club Orwell

What's up with THAT, O my "limited government" GOP Brothers?

We've just come across a fairly decent editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune, regarding a topic which we ranted about here on Weber County Forum only last week:
Club Orwell
And for the record, we really don't care whether our legislature ever gets around to abolishing our Utah Prohibition Legal Workaround. From our own viewpoint, although the club membership process seems a mite silly, we don't find it overly intrusive. And from the point of view of the many out-of-state visitors we've talked with about this, it does add a certain cloak and dagger "aura" to a visit to our very unique state... something akin to patronizing a "speakeasy" during the American Prohibition Experiment... or an American hotel bar in a strict Muslim nation. Surely that adds something special to the Utah tourist experience, right?

And whether the minor inconvenience of signing up for a club membership truly operates as a deterrent to Utah tourism we do not know. We won't necessarily take Governor Huntsman's word for it. Speaking however as a self-interested, avid skier, who really enjoys that great untracked Utah powder, we're not sure that such deterrence is an entirely bad thing at all [wink-wink-nod-nod].

What really irks us about the proposed new liquor control system, of course, i.e., the creation of a state operated central database to store the personal information of even the most infrequent "sinners," is that the idea is straight out of George Orwell, alright, as the SLTrib editorial suggests. So once again we ask the question, adopting the succinct and colloquial phrasing of one of the readers in the comments section below last Friday's editorial:
For a state with an overwhelming "get government out of my private life" Republicans, I find it highly hypocritical the way they seem to nose their way in to the private lives of any one and everyone they don't agree with. Will adulthood EVER be legal in Utah(?)
Yeah.. What's up with THAT, O my "limited government" GOP Brothers and Sisters?

Who will be the first to comment?


Curmudgeon said...

A driver's license/state ID card swipe age check is a workable idea. A card swipe program that feeds a data base is not. There is no reason the card swipe has to feed a data base. All it has to do is check the card against a data base to verify age. Nothing more. And that, I understand, was the original proposal. The data base building aspect was a subsequent alteration and a bad idea.

Can't say whether Utah's bizarre liquor laws deter tourists from coming here. Can say with certainty that they often annoy tourists who are here. Listening to the beleaguered staff at Squatters in SL try to explain over and over to disbelieving touristas that they can have beer with their meal where they are, but if anyone wants a glass of wine, the whole party will have to move four feet to the left and find places at the counter over there makes the point, I think. The owner has said it is costing him money, since his waitstaff has to devote not inconsiderable time, especially when a big convention is in town, explaining all this over and over. Slows service and turnover time, which costs him money. Besides, annoying tourists [aka Utah customers] is generally not a good business practice. People have told me that the laws cost Utah convention and business meeting business. [I don't know if that's accurate or not, but it seems plausible.]

And let us not underestimate the impact of the silly club membership laws on residents of Utah. Like me and Mrs. Curmudgeon who enjoy wandering up and down resort town streets [think Park City and Moab] of a pleasant afternoon sometimes, and taking a break and to get off our feet with a glass of wine now and then. We either have to join a club each time we do it, or keep going back to the same club once we join one, or order some food we don't want each time. It's just annoying and serves, so far as we can see, very little purpose. This is not a problem in Durango or Taos or Santa Fe or Red River or Jackson. But it is here. Shouldn't be. No defensible reason for it to be.

ozboy said...

I can't see how this electronic ID checking is really going to work - especially as it pertains to out of state tourists. Does the state actually propose to have a data base to compare ID's which includes every drivers license from every state in the country? So what happens if a youngish looking person from Ohio shows up to have a drink after a day on the slopes? Does the ID checker have access to a Ohio data base that will verify that person's age and license validity?

The whole idea seems intrusive and unworkable to me. But then common sense never did have much to do with Utah liquor laws.

OgdenLover said...

People who live in New York City often don't have drivers' licences because owning a car is too much of a hassle. What are they planning to do about cases like that?

RudiZink said...

Especially good point, OgdenLover. This is true of residents in many large metropolitan areas. This new proposal, if implemented, will clearly have to contain a fall-back plan B, for those Americans who don't have a state-issued DL, ID, or... embedded chip.

Bill C. said...

Having had a long career in the bar business, if a bartender is incapable od figuring out a persons age by looking at a birth date, I wouldn't really want him handling the cash. Curm, swiping any card or ID is a total waste of time and expense. Ideas like that just go to show what stupid ignoramouses we keep sending to do the publics business.
No doubt this proposal came from Utah Co. where so tech outfit has a new scanning device and some invested legislator forging a new market for their gizmo, legislative insurance on profits. This would branch into the need to these gizmos in all retail outlets that suuply the beverages, including the State owned liquor stores which will probably buy up the first production run.

Curmudgeon said...


The bartender check works if the ID is not counterfeit. The trade in fake cards [some of them quite professionally done] is not inconsiderable. Borrowed cards would still swipe clean, but fake ones would not.

I agree the whole thing will be more costly than necessary, and not achieve much better results than we have with the present system. But if that's the minimum price for dumping the club laws, it's worth it, seems to me [provided no data base building is part of it]. The choices before us now are not I think "card swipe" or "eliminate the club system." The choices are "card swipe" or nothing. Provided card swipe does not involve building a "Satan's Data Base" [so to speak], seems potentially workable to me. But if Huntsman can prevail upon the Carrie Nation Faction of the Utah Republican Caucus to dump the club system, period, he'll have me cheering for him all the way.

As for OL's objections: most states issue state IDs for people without driver's licenses, as Utah does. And they are widely issued since they have become the default "government issued picture ID" for people who want to fly, or cash checks, etc. I think the number of people without them who will be flying in will be fairly limited.

In any case, what those who advocate card swipe are worried about, I think, is underage drinking by Utahns. The system could work applied only to Utah residents, using the existing carding system [bartender peek] for those not in state. Patrons would have to hand over the card either way. In state card, it gets swiped. Out of state card, bd gets looked at. It's workable. Or could be.

Yes, it would be better to just dump the club system and be done with it, period. But I don't think that's likely to happen just now. I look at the [non-data base] card swipe proposal as a step in the right direction. I doubt it will last a decade once implemented. But it's a beginning. Sometimes childish state legislatures have to walk before they can run.

RudiZink said...

The real issue here isn't liquor control, folks. It's mainly about the right to privacy. (and I do agree with Bill C.'s assertion that there's probably an an associated element of legislatively-assisted local technological (Utah County) marketing involved here too).

What these so-called "small government" GOP legislators are pushing, in the larger view, is plain and simple, ie., another venture into Utah GOP nanny state politics.

Senator Valentine isn't the first Utah GOP legislator to have pushed for the establishment of an overly broad state datababase, either.

Last legislative session, GOP House Rep Kerry Gibson introduced House Bill 156 "DNA Sample - Felony and Certain Misdemeanor Arrests" which would have imposed mandatory DNA samples (your personal genetic barcode) for individuals who were "merely arrested" (and not convicted) of enumerated crimes.

That's right folks. Your genectic "barcode" would be in the database upon arrest, regardless of whether you were "unjustly accused" or "eventually exonnerated." apparently neoCON Kerry Gibson saw no problem with that.

Fortunately the Utah ACLU took the poor lame farmer and neoCON House member Gibson to task for this, and made him back down, somewhat.

Watch Out Utahns! The core of pioneer descendants Utah society fled to the mountains of Utah to escape the heavy hand of government. And here we now have this pack of authoritarian neoCON Utah GOP legislators, stepping hard on the rights of "outsider" politico/religious outsider groups,and citizens who'd be considered "normal" outside of "This Peculiar Place."

Sad to observe, from the point of view of a War-horse paleo-Republican like me.

Sad, VERY sad.

Curmudgeon said...


You wrote: The core of pioneer descendants Utah society fled to the mountains of Utah to escape the heavy hand of government.

A slight historical correction is necessary I think. The core of pioneer descendants of Utah society fled to the mountains of Utah to escape the heavy hand of government wielded by someone other than themselves. They were, upon arrival, quite happy to erect a government here that applied heavy a hand in pursuit of conformity here in Utah. Not at all unlike John Winthop's dour crew up in Boston, seems to me, that fled England to escape persecution by the Anglican Church, and then established in the Bay Colony a government that persecuted non-Puritans, sometimes to the point of execution.

Government's hand always seems heavy when someone else is wielding it, and remarkably light when wielded by whatever group a person belong's to.

RudiZink said...

"Government's hand always seems heavy when someone else is wielding it, and remarkably light when wielded by whatever group a person belong's to."

Exactly Right, Gentle Curm. Perhaps I was a wee bit too subtle (or inarticulate) in attempting to make that exact same point.

No historical correction is necessary, I think, except for those who are compelled psychologically, to "split hairs."

Curmudgeon said...


Ah, I wish it was splitting hairs. If I had a dollar for every student who arrives at the University believing that the Puritans fled England because of their belief in religious liberty, which of course they established here when they arrived as a gift to us, I'd be [to repeat myself] writing this on the beach in Maui with winsome lasses bringing me cooling libations in hollowed out coconuts with little paper umbrellas as swizzle sticks. And I've had students insist the Mormon pioneers came to Utah seeking religious liberty --- not for themselves alone, but as a basic principle of governance.

So truly, Rudi, I wish it was splitting hairs. Sadly, I don't think so.

RudiZink said...

So you're saying the "Marmons" got driven serially out of at least five eastern and misdwestern states for some reason other than religious persecution?

Please make your point... assuming you have one to make.

It's difficult to define common ground, we'll add, with anyone who "bobs and weaves," and simultaneously labels himself a "Curmudgeon."


I'll add that i'm all for winsome lasses and mai tais on sunny beaches, BTW.

Curmudgeon said...


They were driven out by religious persecution, obviously, as were the Massachusetts Puritans out of England. But neither group embraced as they fled the principle of religious liberty or religious freedom, and both created in the wilderness governments that enforced religious conformity. And many many students do not know or understand that, and believe the Puritan refugees and the Mormon refugees embraced, and created, societies dedicated to religious liberty. And so, when your original post suggested the Mormons had fled because they opposed the principle of "heavy-handed government" --- i.e. that as a matter of principle they preferred max liberty and min government [which god knows they didn't any more than the Puritans did], I filed a slight correction. That's all.

Hey, Rudi. My guild oath as a historian requires me to do things like that. Just as it requires me to grumble about university administration at least three times a week or they revoke my union card.

RudiZink said...


"...and both created in the wilderness governments that enforced religious conformity."

Great. Now we understand your spitting of hairs.

Very good nit-picking distinction.

THAT, however doesn't differ very much with the major point I tried to make earlier:

"What these so-called "small government" GOP legislators are pushing, in the larger view, is plain and simple, ie., another venture into Utah GOP* nanny state politics."

Seems we're in substantial agreement again, Curm, No?

Funny how that works, innit?
*Local code word for Marmon

Bill C. said...

Curm and Rudi, your both skirting the truth to some degree.
Fact is, it was their business and trading practices as well as their social demeamor that caused them to have to exit state after state. Exclussion of anyone not of the faith, so to speak. Which caused many to consider them, not good neighbors. Their original intention when leaving Illinois was to get the hell out of the U.S. for good, but then came the war and before they got here it was U.S. territory, nowhere to run.
They did however set up a theocracy immediately.
Obviously some would still prefer a theocratic state as they continually behave as if it is.

Doctor Opposite said...

I used to think John Valentine was merely part of the self serving national corporo-fascist element in the Utah GOP. What's clear now, with his kowtowing to THE CHURCH (the only true Church), and his support of State databases tracking sinners, is that he, and most of his Utah GOP legislative colleagues, are members of the numerically more numerous and much more localy important religio-fascist faction.

Sieg Heil Tom Monson!

Glory Be the Righteous State of Utah (Zion on Earth)

Bill C. said...

Oh, and Curm, about fake ID's, most are out of state drivers licenses that a scanner would be a useless tool in determining validity. The other point I would make is; is there really a problem at all? Considering the thousands of patrons if not millions, how many infractions are there annually? The penalties are steep for bar owners, and it's rare that they slip up. Someone should offer Valentine and cabal their own state regulatory statistics.
Most kids use fake ID's at stores anyway, unless all their buddies have one or look old enough they don't go to bars anyway.
Drunk kids are more prone to be connoiseurs of high adventure outdoor recreation.
No, any justification used by these idiot legislators for having quirky liquor laws is predicated on strawmen, and pure bullshit.

Curmudgeon said...

Not arguing with you, Bill. But I doubt anything substantive is going to change about the club system unless the Carrie Nation Brigade gets something it can point to as progress in controlling young folk drinking. [Whether it actually will or is another question.] And I'd prefer a system that offers more freedom of choice than the current club system. And if a [non data base] card swipe for state residents will do that, well then it's a good deal from my POV. But I did not, and do not argue that it's the best solution or one that will do much of anything to better control underage drinking. And since it seems to me --- others may disagree --- better than what we have now, it's worth going for. That's all. I'd rather make some progress in maximizing personal freedom and choice on this matter than none at all.

Bill C. said...

Curm, maybe you can interpret their rational for me, I'm having a hard time with their point.
If this is being presented under the guise of age verification to prohibit underage persons from drinking, why must someone your age or even mine be required to show ID, each and every time we enter the establishment? What about a bartender's mother or a sibling, someone they've known their whole life? In other words, if age isnt an issue, what's Valentines purpose? And like some on the trib's website responded, who care's what the church thinks on this issue? It shouldn't concern them, unless their acknowleging their own hypocracy?

Curmudgeon said...


If you're asking me to find and explain the rationality of Valentine and his Merrie Bande of Puritan Wingnuts, you are absolutely asking the wrong guy.

ozboy said...

The whole idea of keeping kids from drinking is silly. Hey we were all kids once and as far as I have experienced none of the many strange Utah liquor laws I have seen over the years has had the least effect on me or others I have known when it came to drinking. Liquor laws have always merely presented a slight challenge as far as acquisition, but not whether or not to do it.

It is basic parenting at an early age that either gives, or doesn't give, a person the knowledge of self and the dangers lurking to self in this world. Making silly liquor laws is not going to take up the slack left by poor parenting.

By the time I was thirteen I knew how and where to get liquor if I wanted it. Any kid with half a brain can get booze or drugs very easily if he wants them. It has always been this way and always will be no matter how many ridiculous laws these sanctimonious clowns in the legislature lay on the books. You can't regulate some things, and the desire of some to experience different dimensions is one of them. In other words, some folks just gotta get drunk and there ain't nobody that's gonna stop them whether their 13 or 113.

Curmudgeon said...


You wrote: It is basic parenting at an early age that either gives, or doesn't give, a person the knowledge of self and the dangers lurking to self in this world. Making silly liquor laws is not going to take up the slack left by poor parenting.

Well, yes and no. Good parenting clearly matters, but it is not always sufficient to prevent a kid from going off the rails. Often, yes. Always, no.

And [as I'm sure you know], good parenting in re: hooch does not necessarily mean protecting the little darlings from even the sight of a drink being poured a few tables away in a restaurant. I grew up in an Italian household, at which wine was present at many evening meals, especially in Grandpa's kitchen. Very young un's often got a glass of ginger ale with a teaspoon if chianti in it to turn it pale pink. As they grew, the number of teaspoons increased, until at about fifteen I think, I got my first glass of undiluted wine with dinner. Big day. Big event. Rite of passage.

Same with beer under the grape arbor in the back yard on hot summer days. Sips first, then as we grew, a little bit more in a glass, until again about fifteen, you could have a beer with men --- one --- on stinky hot afternoons. Big day. Big event. Rite of passage.

So, growing up, getting access to alcohol was no big deal in the house I grew up in, with none of the allure of "the forbidden" about it. I wouldn't presume to say this would work for all families, of all backgrounds, but it worked in mine.

Imagine That said...

So..."Pioneer Days" is really "Refugee Days", just as the Puritans were also not "Pioneers" but refugees.

Say it ain't so!

And now Jiffy Lube, Kentucky Fried Chicken, TV, Cold Fusion, and the Internet were all begun right cheer in Utah!

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