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.