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Beer-policy debate turns ‘Bizarro’

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By Jim Waters

One legislator said the beer distribution policy debate that recently brewed and boiled in the Kentucky House reminded him of comic-book episodes featuring Bizarro, the super villain who appeared as the antithesis of DC Comics’ Superman in the late 1950s.

Alvin Schwartz created the desperado with powers and flaws similar to the hero’s – only in reverse.

Nothing demonstrated that mirror image more than Bizarro’s bizarre speech, all of which meant the opposite; what was “bad” became “good” and what was “good” wasn’t.

It’s indeed much like what happened during debate on House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s confiscatory House Bill 168 aimed at taking Kentucky property away from a single company, Anheuser-Busch InBev.

An amendment by Rep. Adam Koenig, Erlanger’s free-market Superman (Republican-style), would have placed the bill on a big chunk of “blue kryptonite” by protecting the brewery’s distributorships in Louisville and Owensboro.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, starring as Bizarro – minus (thankfully) the leotards, cape and big large “B” that appeared in place of the “S” on the anti-hero’s costume – called the hero’s amendment “flawed.”

Fellow League of (Frankfort) Justice superhero Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, dared to suggest – during a “truth, justice and the American way” moment – doing away altogether with outdated Prohibition-era beer regulations and allowing Kentucky-based brewers and microbrewers to distribute their own products instead of being forced to use a third party.

Most small operators would heartily support such freedom. The rest simply use regulatory policy as kryptonite against competitors.

This all is really about the worst type of cronyism – the kind used to feed greed and employ Bizarro’s power.

Were it not for the scaremongering and misinformation offered by two distributors that compete with Anheuser-Busch, both amendments could have moved forward.

Chas. Seligman Distributing Co. in Northern Kentucky claims that allowing Anheuser-Busch to own distributorships would result in a monopoly. General Manager Jennifer Doering doing her best Chicken-Little impression includes arguments that, in Bizarro-talk, means the “good” – a company growing in a vibrant marketplace – is “bad” and that the “bad” – discouraging outside investment in the Bluegrass State – is “good.”

“I don’t think it’s right that a foreign company comes in and tries to eliminate a system that works very well. If it starts with Owensboro, it’s just going to continue on,” she lectured, even as Kentucky Gov. Beshear was touting his trips abroad to try and attract new business.

Why should the governor succeed if, as Doering spouts, it’s “bad” for a large foreign-owned company to grow and prosper here?

How “good” it would be – in Bizarro Doering’s view – for government to not only keep that company from purchasing new entities but also to force it to sell its existing operations.

Could it be that Bizarro had ulterior motives? Why yes! As a matter of fact, it very well could be!

Whad’ya know? Seligman sales executive Greg Thomas told Louisville TV reporter Joe Arnold that his company would be “interested” in purchasing Anheuser-Busch’s Louisville operation if the beer giant is forced to liquidate.

So will the story be that in the spirit of Lex Luthor, Bizarro’s comic-strip mentor, Seligman got Stumbo to use his government power not only to shake a company down and give it to a large “contributor” to those very same shakedown efforts?

All while Stumbo used Bizarro-speak about “fairness,” “a level playing field” and the “purity” of the three-tier system, which he even acknowledged is riddled with “exceptions.” Hypocritically so, I might add.

State senators, who ultimately will decide the fate of this krypton-itic legislation, should do in legislative terms what Earth-3 invaders did to Bizarro in their final battle with him – send his ideas down to a terrible defeat, which I’m certain would have even Luthor crying in his Country Boy brew.