Goddard saves us from ourselves

Before he really made the news a couple of weeks ago, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich did something newsworthy that was pretty much ignored.

In posturing worthy of a politician twice his age, Blagojevich threatened to end the state's business relationship with a bank unless the bank loaned more money to a failed business. The bank buckled to the tune of about $1.3 million.

It says a lot about how far we've fallen when a powerful politician can publicly extort money from a business and no one blinks an eye.

Such is the case here in Arizona, as well, where Terry Goddard teamed up with 11 other state attorneys general as well as the San Francisco city attorney to put the squeeze on MillerCoors for $550,000. You can read all about it in the Dec. 22 Miner.

What was MillerCoors' half-million dollar transgression? The brewing company had the temerity to create a product, Sparks, that contains alcohol and caffeine.

(Collective gasp here.)

The congratulatory press release issued by Goddard's office said the investigation of caffeinated alcohol drinks started earlier this year. Here's what the investigation uncovered:

• Sparks, the MillerCoors product, comes in packaging so it looks "similar to non-alcohol energy drinks."

• People in their 20s like caffeinated alcohol drinks.

• Really, really stupid people think caffeine in drinks keeps them sober.

• Young people "often consume several of the alcohol-laced drinks in a night and mix the drinks with other alcoholic beverages."

Where do we start in regard to this damning evidence? Beats the crap outta me. The last bullet item sounds like one of those learn by experience things most of us went through, some of us more than once, and we did it years before someone thought that a product with alcohol and caffeine might turn a buck.

Having never seen a commercial for Sparks, I can't swear there was a marketing plan that suggested having some of it around results in dozens of buxom, bikini-clad women showing up. But if there was such an ad campaign, Goddard probably would have gone for the death penalty.

But we're safe now. The agreement now means that Sparks will no longer contain caffeine, the Sparks Web site is discontinued (how will I fill that three-hours-a-day void in my life?), and the executives at MillerCoors now know it's wrong to make a perfectly legal product that might offend some politician's sensibilities.

The news release notes that previous efforts resulted in Tilt and Bud Extra being discontinued, and with Sparks now caffeine-free "85 percent of all alcoholic energy drinks that were available at the start of 2008" are now no longer available.

I guess fans of Sparks will just have to go back to whiskey and Coke, or maybe they can switch over to Red Bull and vodka.

Goddard, meanwhile, can dislocate his shoulders while vigorously patting himself on the back for his role in removing these "dangerous 'alco-pops' from the market" to "keep our young people safe."

I think I'll have a wine cooler to celebrate.