Those Control-Freaking Do-Gooders
Imagine my surprise when, one morning at 8:24 a.m., I was interrupted at my labors by a phone call. It was an irate UPS person calling to inform me that I was receiving a shipment of alcohol, an “illegal” substance, and that was more than they could allow—something up with which they could not put.
Although they did not exactly say so, they seemed worried that somehow my beer shipment would soon become the treasure of that rascally 14-year-old down the street, who would then leap into his father’s car and race through town like a bowling ball scattering pedestrians hither and yon.
They wanted me to come down and relieve them of the mess that my illegal activities had wrought. One of the bottles had broken, perhaps, they said, due to inept packaging on the part of the shipper. I pointed out to them that it could have been due to their careless handling. No matter; I must come and get the mess, or they would turn the whole thing over to some wretched government agency.
So, I interrupted my labors and drove six miles to the local UPS office, where I found that the beer in question had been frozen, causing one of the bottles to leak.
I pointed out to these gracious folk that I was a licensed, tax-paying business person who had been using their company since 1969; and that I had discussed this very matter with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission as recently as 1978.
They were not impressed by this intelligence. I was led to a chart on the wall that purported to be the law of the land. That exhibit had a list of states, including Oregon, from whence one could ship beer or wine, and another showing whereto one could ship Oregon beer or wine. They wouldn’t give me a copy of this document, but I recall that only three states allowed beer shipments from Oregon, and none were allowed to ship beer into this state.
It seems that wine can go anywhere (with a few exceptions), but for the most part, beer is not allowed that privilege. I should mention that beer (in addition to wine) is an important product in this state. We have 72 breweries and are the largest producer of craft beers in the country.
But Wait—There’s More
OK, I can deal with that, but more and more, the religious erroneous in our country seem to be calling all of the shots. Their view of life precludes the use of any alcohol beverage. Never mind that the founder of one such group earned his living 2,000 years ago by doing public miracles, and that his very first miracle was to get booze for a wedding. Furthermore, he has been highly lauded for this act of public service.
These erroneous melon heads do their religion and their own cause great disservice. This same group aspires to control our school system. There they tell our children that if their parents consume or sell alcohol beverages, such parents are “drug pushers” and should be reported to the authorities under some circumstances.
OK, so a little inconvenience for Fred is not exactly an issue of national importance, and I agree, but there’s a lot of this nonsense going on across the land. Take the case of my good friend and fellow beer writer, Alan Moen, a Washington resident, who writes the “Afterwort” column in American Brewer magazine. He described the following encounter with Washington’s finest (AB, Autumn 2002 issue).
Last October, he and his publisher, Bill Metzger, were traveling south from Canada on the I-5 freeway after dining in Bellingham, the meal accompanied by a pint of good ale from a nearby brewery. An hour later, while they were stopped—off the freeway and parked in a rest stop—a Washington State Patrol car flashed the blue and informed them that Moen’s truck’s tail light was cracked. Then the officer detected the aroma of alcohol on Moen’s breath; he demanded that Moen get out of the truck and take voluntary sobriety and breatholyzer tests, against which Moen argued. “Why should I take it if it’s voluntary?” The officer kept harassing Moen until he stepped out of the truck, where he was promptly and violently arrested for “DUI and resisting arrest.”
After spending the night in jail, (where he took and passed two breatholyzer tests at under 0.02 percent—less than a quarter of Washington’s 0.08 percent blood alcohol content, or BAC, limit) and having his truck impounded (at considerable expense—with poor Bill Metzger forced to take an expensive 60-mile cab ride to Seattle), his case was dismissed. He was released but still had his driver’s license confiscated! Now when he goes to Canada on business, he is stopped as a possible felon, since they have not been notified that he was cleared of the charges against him.
Moen sued to get the state to refund him for impounding his truck. Guess what? Now, the state of Washington is suing him to get that money back. Incidentally, only recently has his temporary driver’s license finally been replaced with the real thing. Guilt or innocence seems to have had little to do with this case.
Then there’s the more recent series of events outlined in the Washington (DC) Times for January 8. Mike Heidig was arrested in Champps Bar in Reston, VA, after doing a Santa Claus version of Jingle Bell Rock for a karaoke performance. A police officer asked him outside to take a sobriety test, and when he got hung up on the alphabet at “Q,” the officer demanded that he take a breatholyzer test, which he failed. He was not in a car, but he was arrested for public intoxication in a bar! This is a misdemeanor with a $250 fine, and maybe a night in the Fairfax County jail.
The Fairfax County police and the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control are trying to pick out drunks before they get into their cars to drive. In this and other capers, the police arrested some 12 persons at restaurants in the area during December and early January. Some of these episodes had police in full SWAT regalia, while others involved undercover operatives.
These shenanigans elicited an editorial comment (Washington Times, January 9) from no less a personage than Bob Barr, an exceptionally un-liberal Republican congressman from Georgia. His comments compared the police action with those of last year’s sci-fi “Minority Report” movie, in which the police arrest criminals before they can commit their crimes. Barr pointed out: “That bars actually exist as places in which people drink alcohol (is) not only legal, it’s encouraged.” Very sober thinking from an unexpected source! Barr went on to point out that this goes hand in hand with retired Admiral Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness system we are building for the federal government.
As for me, I find this all very frightening. These government officials should take note not only of the fact that the breatholyzer test is subject to 50 percent error rates, but also that if you or I drink a small, 8-ounce glass of normal-strength beer (5 percent alcohol by volume, or ABV) and then immediately take a breatholyzer test, the results would show a significant BAC; yet if we wait 15 minutes, the BAC reading would be much reduced.
I just did that experiment with the store-bought digital breatholyzer (Sharper Image, $99) I have been playing around with lately. I drank an 8-ounce glass of porter (about 5.5 percent ABV), and drank it fast, finishing in less than a minute. I immediately took my BAC with this machine. My measured BAC after just that one glass was 0.195 percent. That’s very high (I weigh close to 200 pounds).
If I were driving, and that was my real measure, I would deserve whatever the judge threw in my direction because that reading would indicate a high level of drunkenness. Most people can’t even walk straight with 0.2 percent BAC. But if I had immediately left the bar after that one beer, the machine would have been wrong about my personal alcohol content.
Incidentally, after 15 minutes, my BAC level was down to 0.031 percent and after 30 minutes, 0.023 percent. And, yes, I do know that this equipment is not all that accurate, but then neither is that used by your local police department. Oh, and did I mention that some of the 12 arrested in the event cited earlier had BAC levels of 0.14 to 0.224? I wonder why!
The stated reason for all of this nonsense is that alcohol abuse is a great problem for our society. However, the folks who abuse alcohol represent only about 10 percent of our entire drinking population.
The US government and the World Health Organization are seeking to reduce overall alcohol consumption in the world by 25 percent. They emphasize the problems caused by alcohol, citing statistics about accidents, about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), about the effects of alcohol abuse, and about the prevalence of alcohol abuse. These people are misusing statistics that are in themselves inaccurate and oversimplified to provide an unbalanced perspective on alcohol use in our society. The do-gooders are eating this stuff up.
I see no end to this repression, though I’d like to remind you that yet another New England Journal of Medicine study (dated January 9) tells us that, for men, at least, a daily ration of beer (up to four, it would seem) is quite supportive of good health.
The do-gooding, control-freaking Nazis are out there. Beware. Don’t let the illegitimi carborundum you down.
Fred Eckhardt lives and drinks beer in Portland, OR.