Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Big Tobacco Got Burned, or How I Would Have Won on the Bad Side of Question 3

Question 3 on Kansas City's ballots a week from today is a proposal to prevent inconsiderate people from imposing health risks and cleaning bills on their intellectual and moral superiors. Or, at least, that is the conventional wisdom that will prevail at the polls next Tuesday, despite the $225,000 spent by tobacco companies to shift that attitude.

The tobacco companies got cheated.

They're not losing because they're evil. They're losing because they ran an utterly ineffective campaign. With the money they've tossed into the cause, I could have delivered a victory for them.

Mind you, I'm not going to go crying any tears for big tobacco. Their business model has been to spread death and to lie about it, so I hold no sympathy for them. I just didn't know they were so foolish.

First off, whoever designed those yard signs should be ashamed. The key to yard signs is to deliver a message at a glance. The "No on 3" signs, though, deliver an undecipherable black bar. Not only is it ugly, but, more importantly, the black bar swallows the dark red 3. The message delivered is "NO on Question". The "NO" stands out fine, but the sign fails in its main purpose.

Next, the whole thrust of the campaign was poorly chosen. Rather than running against casinos, big tobacco has been running to protect small business owners. Sorry, friends, but nobody really cares about bar owners. "Business rights" might sound good when you're sitting around having a pity party with your fellow bar owners, but the rest of us aren't crying into your river. We're also not falling for the made-up statistics claiming that all our local bars are going to close and the taps will grow cobwebs. It's a lie, and nobody's falling for it, so if they had spent half an hour listening to a focus group, they would have adopted an entirely different theme.

Now that it's too late for them to change their theme and yank up those worthless yard signs, I'll go ahead and give them the advice they needed before they blew almost a quarter million dollars.

"Don't Stack the Deck. No on 3. No More Breaks for Gaming."

There it is. A sense of unfairness. A focus on the casino exemption - the one aspect of the Smoking Ban that makes absolutely no sense to people of good will. And a big ugly target to run against.

Kansas Citians don't like big businesses getting an advantage over the rest of us. That's one of the main reasons that Funkhouser's Mayoral campaign focused on the TIF pigs. While not a single person in Kansas City could point to a single dollar that a TIF project had taken out of his or her pocket, the resentment against cozy insiders making big money over breakfast with the former Mayor ran deep.

The casinos should have been the TIF pigs of this race. Especially since they wouldn't even fight back - there's no way they would actually promote anti-smoking legislation.

Of course, I would have also ran a better street campaign, even beyond the yard signs. Every beer in Kansas City would have been served on a coaster that looked like a big ace of spades, with "Don't stack the deck - No on 3" written on it. Letters to the editor would focus on "why are we giving more breaks to the casinos?". Press releases would point out that this proposal favors not only the KC casino, but also the ones in other municipalities. I'd have those little oval car stickers with "NO3" available at every bar, and plastered on every bar employee's car.

Question 3 will pass by a healthy margin next Tuesday, and I'm glad of it. I'll be happy to see people voting in favor of clean air and pleasant bars.

But if the bar owners and tobacco companies were smart, we'd all be going out on Tuesday to vote against another break for "the house". I could have won this race for them. I'm glad they hired the incompetents.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who were the "incompetents" they did hire? The usual suspects?

4/01/2008 10:45 AM  
Blogger Bull E. Vard said...

It's really kind of sad that freedom and private property rights don't sell well enough these days.

Enjoy your victory next Tuesday, I hope they don't come after something you like next (by that I don't mean that I like smoking, I don't, but I can control myself enough to leave someplace when the smoke bothers me).

4/01/2008 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you seen this article about Chris Koster?

Koster Returns to GOP Fold
One-time Republican turns one-time Democrat, enters governor’s race as write-in

By April Berner

Associated Press


Jefferson City, Mo. – State Sen. Chris Koster once again shocked Missouri’s political establishment by announcing he is returning to the Republican Party and will enter the race for governor as a write-in candidate.

“Friends, the past few months have been a difficult journey for me, but I stand before you today as a proud Republican,” Koster said to a gathering of supporters and reporters outside the State Capitol. “After wandering in the desert for most of the last year, I am returning home and asking Republican voters for forgiveness.”

Koster, who became a Democrat just nine months ago and after serving as a top Republican leader in the state Senate, has now brought his political affiliation full circle. But it remains unclear if Republicans will welcome home him anymore than Democrats did, especially as their candidate for Governor.

“As I surveyed the political landscape, it become obvious that I have more experience than any other candidate in the race, as well as a unique vantage having been both a Republican and a Democrat,” Koster said. “I plan to take that experience with me as Missouri’s next governor. It may not be clear what I stand for, but in the end, my willingness to sway with the political breeze will always serve me best.”

Koster said it became obvious to him in recent months that Democratic voters weren’t willing to forgive his past votes on divisive issues like Republican Governor Matt Blunt’s cuts to Medicaid and to require voter identification.

“While I absolutely stand by my votes on those issues, I was surprised that Democratic voters weren’t more flexible in their positions on their bedrock issues,” Koster said. “So, I have concluded that leaving the Democratic Party is the best way for me to carry forward my broader vision for this state and our future.”

Koster also pointed to Senator John McCain’s sudden rise in the polls as a reason for his return to the party. He said that while he believes McCain may carry Missouri, he will continue to monitor the presidential race and the political current in Missouri.

“Returning to the Democratic Party probably isn’t in the cards,” Koster said, “but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of running as an independent instead.” Koster also said he has made inquiries with representatives of both the Green and Libertarian Parties.

4/01/2008 6:56 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Bull -

If you want unrestricted freedom, you have to go live in the wilderness. If you want unrestricted private property rights, don't try to run a public business on your private property. It's all pretty simple. They won't come after anything I like, because I don't like stinking or interfering with other people's health.

4/01/2008 8:06 PM  
Blogger Bull E. Vard said...

You know, it's not even the ban on smoking that bugs me as I wrote in my post on the subject. It's the public's reflex to have the government "protect" them from things instead of being responsible for themselves. Virtually everything that I'm against stems from this reflex; Patriot Act, TSA guidelines, ethanol subsidies, marriage amendment, FISA, helmet laws, immigration restrictions, the coming war against obesity, drug laws, drinking ages, prostitution illegality, licensing requirements for many occupations, etc. (do I need to go on?).

When does it stop? At some point we're all going to be criminals. We already have the highest incarceration rate of any civilized nation. But not to worry Dan, you or I aren't really in danger of going to jail, we were born with the "right" skin color. I'm pretty sure if you were born with a different skin color you might be a little more leery of giving more police power to the state.

I, for one, value the individual and the individual's rights to make a decision that only affects them. I guess you want the state involved in as many decisions as possible.

4/01/2008 9:14 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

You guess wildly wrong, Bull.

4/01/2008 9:22 PM  
Anonymous Brent said...

Dan should I point you to your Nov. 14 2007 post where you wonder bemoan that privacy has become outdated? It's all in the name of safety right?

I'm with Bull on this one. It's not as much that regulating smoking bugs me so much as the willingness of so many people like you that are so excited and eager for the government to impose restrictions on other people for their own convenience...

4/01/2008 10:43 PM  
Anonymous Soon-to-be-in-KC-Lawyer said...

Oh "bull e. vard," how simplistic your views of reality are. You decry "the public's reflex to have the government "protect" them from things instead of being responsible for themselves."

You then mention helmet laws & the coming war against obesity along with smoking bans in restaurants.

You know what, there's a damn good reason why the public/government cares about those actions -- they do NOT just affect the individuals taking them.

The idiot riding a motorcycle w/o a helmet & gets in an accident and severely injured and/or dies imposes costs across society -- for the ambulance to come get him, for the doctors/hospitals trying to revive/save him, for his deceased family/dependents who are now shorn of his income/support. The helmet-less person no longer consumes goods in the economy or contributes to the economy, and the person's employer has to find a new employee.

Likewise, this is all similar for the morbidly obese person who suffers a heart attack, or to the waitress who develops cancer after bringing smokers brews for years & years.

Individuals' actions have consequences for society at large, and the polity has every right to act so limit the costs that dumb individuals' choices impose on the rest of us.

4/01/2008 10:55 PM  
Anonymous ray ray said...

soon to be

Im sure you know the slippery slope effect of these gov't interferences. If you really care about 'saving' society life and money, lets:

1. make crs that only go 60mph
2. significantly reduce the speed limit after dark-when most crashed happen
3. dont let people drive until they turn 25
4. require helmets for any child playng soccer
5. taxing/regulating restaurants that serve unhealthy food
6. tax obese people into losing weight

etc, etc etc

Funny how people on the left love to talk about how the right favors intrusion, yet the attacks on cigarettes, to these smoking bans, to trans fats all show that the left bows to the trial lawyers and sell their freedom in the process.


4/01/2008 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incompetent yes, Cathy Nugent isn't the most pleasant person they could have chosen to lead the Business Rights Coalition. Obviously a hired gun that will do anything for a buck. Involving former bar owner Bill Nigro couldn't have been a worse idea. He has always ran with a sleezy crowd.

4/02/2008 2:38 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Brent and Ray Ray -

Again with the bogus slippery slope argument? Why is there not a single person in Kansas City arguing in favor of smoking? Think about that for a second, before you start talking about how "the left" will soon be requiring us to do something else next. First, defend the deed of smoking.

Here's why the slippery slope argument is wrong in this context - we can look at the track record and see that it has not happened. Pubs, inns and taverns have been subject to government regulation for hundreds of years, both here and back in Europe. Some of those regulations seem foolish now, others, such as common measures and food regulations, aren't even considered violations of "business rights" any more.

Notice how Bull, Brent and Ray Ray carefully avoid talking about the real point of the proposal. Instead, they want to talk about a completely different proposal that nobody is even proposing.

When and if someone makes the crazy proposals that they want to talk about, I trust our democratic process to handle them. If the proposals that Ray Ray fears get put onto a ballot, I promise to work with Ray Ray to defeat them. They haven't come up in the hundreds of years we've been enjoying a democracy instead of a libertarian utopia, but, if it makes Ray Ray feel better, I'll make that promise.

4/02/2008 6:14 AM  
Anonymous Brent said...

"When and if someone makes the crazy proposals that they want to talk about, I trust our democratic process to handle them."

Yes, as a white male with an above-average income and has ties to political elites in the city, it's really easy to want to trust the "democratic process" -- because it does, and always has, favored your position.

I'm not against democracy -- but I will note that democracy is notorious for catering to the majority of taking the rights away from the minority.

If given the option, I will always choose freedom. I don't condone smoking. I don't like smoking. And I don't think smokers have rights. However, I do favor business owners. Particularly small, local business owners, and their ability to do business in way that they think benefits their business.

People who don't like how they do business, are more than welcome not to go there. If enough people do that, they will change the business practice that people don't like.

Instead of making that decision for yourself of whether or not you want to support that business, you want government to do it for you. I actually think it's kind of pathetic.

And again, it's really easy to hide behind democracy when you're in the majority.

4/02/2008 11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did Brent really just play the race card on behalf of smokers?

Dan, you've been attracting a dumber class of commenters lately . . .

4/02/2008 5:07 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Brent - "If given the option, I will always choose freedom. . . I do favor business owners. Particularly small, local business owners, and their ability to do business in way that they think benefits their business."

Brent's father - "If the diner doesn't want those negroes at their lunch counter, they shouldn't have to serve them."

Brent's grandfather - "If I don't want to sell my house to a Jew, I should be able to do my business how I want."

Brent's great-grandfather - "If I want to sell moonshine tainted with lead, I should be able to do my business the way I want."

Brent's great-great-grandfather - If I want to strip-mine my land and allow the run-off kill all the fish in the river, I should be able to do my business the way I want."

All the way down to Brent's ultimate ancestor - "Look, she wanted the apple . . ."

4/02/2008 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You've been out of pocket. Glad the witty comments are back. This one made me smile and reminded me why we have blogs. Great post and comments. The off topic April fools was even funny.

4/02/2008 8:27 PM  
Anonymous ray ray said...

Dan, smoking is legal, just like un protected sex, eating bad food or even drinking too much. Do you hear anyone talking the praises of these? Of course not but do you see people trying to ban these legal activities? Well yes...some and most are just like you Dan. Willing to trample personal freedoms for the bs 'cause of 'saving the world'. Only int his specific case, its so your chlothes dont smell smokey in the am.

I suppose you favored the city law passed 2 years ago dictating how gas station operators collect their money? Same deal. A legal activity being regulated for a simple reason...its emotional and the pols doing it can say they 'are helping people'.

Smoking is unhealthy...just like thousands of other things but we dont regulate them. If you dont like smokey bars, dont go in. And if so many other people didnt like them, why havent bar owners switched? Ill tell you why...b/c a majority of the people sitting inside are smokers.

Its the new american way...be lazy and the gov't will look out for you. By God dont aviod a lace you dont like. Its you God given right not to smell like smoke. Ill show them...well outlaw a legal activity.

Pathetic. The Left---champion of individual rights...LOL

4/02/2008 10:10 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Shorter ray ray:

Slippery slope, slippery slope, wah wah, wah.

With typos.

4/02/2008 10:19 PM  
Anonymous Brent said...

Nice Dan. Yes, my entire family is a bunch of racists.

Listen man, you're the one excited to put limitations on people...not me. But if that makes you feel better about yourself, so be it. I actually expected better from you...

4/03/2008 8:55 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Brent -

I don't know anyone in your family, and I wasn't trying to call them racists. Indeed, it was you who tried to play the race card earlier.

I was merely pointing out that your argument has been on the wrong side of history since history began.

4/03/2008 9:13 AM  
Anonymous Brent said...

Actually, you mostly proved the opposite. You mostly proved that over the course of history, the 'majority' hasn't really been all that right -- which doesn't favor your preference toward democracy.

Historically, government has been at its best when it's protected the minority from the majority -- not the other way around.

4/03/2008 1:24 PM  
Blogger sophia said...

I've been waiting for this post for two months! But I guess you don't go to bars frequently enough to have noticed how crappy the vote no on 3 "campaign" was when they put up those first table tents out back in January. ;)

4/03/2008 6:53 PM  

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