I see in the Inquirer this morning (in Michael Klein's Inqlings column) that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has sent a cease-and-desist letter to former PLCB chairman Jonathan Newman. What do they want him to c&d? Long story short...oh, hell, no, let's do the whole story.
Background: Newman got himself appointed to the PLCB board, educated himself on wine, then brought new power to the PLCB chairman slot, bringing PA's purchasing power to bear on getting the state stores some great wine deals, and then selling those (largely excellent) wines as "Chairman's Selections." He was also behind the state stores opening on Sundays. For reasons unknown (p*a*t*r*o*n*a*g*e), Governor Rendell appointed a PLCB "CEO" (a former state legislator who found himself out of work after the post-pay increase elections...), a new position with a $150,000 salary -- which would have been about "Why the PLCB should be abolished Reason #14," by my count -- and apparently no interview process, which knocked Newman out of the driver's seat. Newman, rightly pissed that he had not even been asked to interview for this job after arguably being the best PLCB chairman ever, resigned in protest. He rested a bit, then opened a wine brokerage business, a privately-owned for-profit business.
Well, the PLCB sent the C&D letter to Newman. It's Klein's story, I'll let him tell it:
On Friday, Newman got a 60-page cease-and-desist complaint from the LCB, sent by the Center City law firm Eckert Seamans.
The LCB grumbled about a graphic on Newman's Web site, which showed a mockup bottle bearing the tiny wording chairman's selection. The LCB also was irked that Frank's Union Wine Mart in Delaware had dared to put its own sign reading "xChairman's Selection" next to a wine display.
Can you say "petty bullshit"? I knew you could. Pennsylvanians, think about this. The PLCB, which has a whole damned troll-cave full of lawyers its ownself, hired a Center City law firm to draft a 60-page letter to get Newman to take down that graphic? (The graphic's gone, by the way: Newman as much as said that all they'd have had to do was call him about it.) That's what, at least 20 billable hours at around $300 an hour? And the PLCB's response to Klein's question about the incident? "The board's interest is in protecting the taxpayers; this is not personal." What exactly did you protect the taxpayers from? Free enterprise? Damn that attitude.
We are treated to the exhibition of a government monopoly suing a private business because that private business may slightly dilute the value of one of the monopoly's marks...a mark that was devised and built by the person who owns that private business. The letter of the law, yes, but... “If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass—a idiot." Thank you, Mr. Dickens.
I may just have to do a series of reasons why...in fact, I will. See my new blog: Why the PLCB Should Be Abolished. I won't be updating it often, but there should be plenty to write about.