Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Sort of Democrats Who Give Government a Bad Name

Full Disclosure: Mad Dog does not drink alcohol much. He prefers O'Douls and Kaliber, which are non alcoholic, but on a trip to Ireland he did learn to drink Guinness without adverse effects, although his intake seems to be limited by some unforgiving gene.  And, beer had something, indirectly, to do with bringing Mad Dog to the Seacoast.  Having been lured to Portsmouth by the promise of a job, Mad Dog wandered the streets with his wife, on a snowy February night in 2008,  and they happened to take refuge in the Portsmouth Brewery, where people were happy, lively, engaged in conversation. 

Taking our seats on the upstairs balcony, we looked down to the brick wall facing us and noted the framed, iconic poster of Mr. Obama, the Ferry poster, hanging quietly on the wall, just as the 2008 campaign was beginning to percolate up, making a quiet, courageous statement about the sympathies of the Portsmouth Brewery, saying something about the value its owner placed on his deeply held political and social convictions,  as opposed to what might be best for business   And Mad Dog looked at his wife and she at him, and they both looked at that poster on the wall and they said, almost in unison, "We could live here."

Now we learn Mr. Peter Egelston, owner of the Portsmouth Brewery, and owner of the Smuttynose Brewing Company which is building a new place in Hampton, employer of waitresses and brewmasters, purveyor of good pub food and general all around good citizen, is facing a 10 cent per gallon hike on beer, a bill put forward by Democrats, a Mr. Charles "Chuck" Weed (D-Keene) and Richard Eaton of Greenville.  

But get this, these two members of the legislature are saying the dollars collected will be used for "alcohol treatment programs."

Now Mad Dog is not an expert in alcoholism, drug addiction or taxation. Nor has he read widely in the pathways to ruined lives followed by alcoholics, but he does remember taking care of alcoholics on the wards of big city hospitals. When they talked about their friends, sitting around the ward with their failing livers, their bleeding esophageal varices, their bouts of pancreatitis, their hypogonadism and their rapidly progressing dementia, they would say, "Oh, Jim, he liked his Chivas," or "Sally, VAT-69 Sally, when she could afford it."  They knew each other by what they drank and I cannot recall anyone ever referring to a fellow drunk as a "Bud Johnny" or "Coors Sammy." Real drinkers did not, at least in those days, waste their time on beer.

Over the years, Mad Dog has know people who drank a 6 pack a night and likely were harmed by that, but the real alcoholics, if they drank beer usually used that as an appetizer and moved quickly on to harder stuff.

So the idea of beer as a sort of crack cocaine to any significant part of the population strikes Mad Dog as a rather odd expression of concern--rather like trying to launch an attack on prostitution by outlawing Victoria's Secret franchises in New Hampshire.

And the idea devoting the income from this new tax to alcohol treatment programs is even more revealing--as if the whole idea is not to punish the beer maker but to rescue the victims of this dreadful thing called beer. As if such programs actually work. 

Talk about sanctimonious. Let us put a picture of Mr. Weed and Mr. Eaton next to that word in the dictionary.

Mad Dog wonders: What are these men thinking? 

It surely can have nothing to do with a burning desire to fund alcohol treatment programs.

If the state of New Hampshire needs to raise money, and the people of New Hampshire like beer and spend lots of money on it and beer seems like an attractive target, as opposed to say, gasoline, well, okay let's just say we need the money.

Actually, If Mr. Weed and Mr. Eaton had real guts they would place that 10 cent tax on gasoline and then we'd see some real money, and maybe less driving or a shift to more fuel efficient cars. Or maybe we could put the money into twelve step programs for drivers who are addicted to unnecessary or overly long car trips.

Personally, Mad Dog would prefer the legislature to legalize marijuana and tax that at a very high rate and we'd all be happier.

If you really wanted to get progressive, Mad Dog would vote for legalizing and  licensing prostitution.  That way we could do monthly HIV and sexual transmitted disease testing, and we could protect the sex workers from violence with more efficacy, and we might do the public health some good. Mad Dog realizes with this paragraph he has lost most of his readership, but that's what a blog is for--float new ideas and see what comes back. So, Maud, pick yourself up off the floor, and fire away. Mad Dog can take it. His love for you will never die--certainly not over this.

Mad Dog is ready for the slings and arrows.

But leave Mr. Egelston alone.  He runs good businesses, employs a lot of people, and does the state of New Hampshire a lot more good than harm. How many of us can say that?

He was, eventually, moved to replace the Obama poster with a parody, using the Smutty nose seal in place of Mr. Obama, but we still remember Mr. Egelson's courage when it really counted.


  1. Mad Dog,
    I almost don't know where to begin...Like you, I don't drink much with the exception of the occasional toast--not even the Guinness in Ireland, but I'm far from a teetotaling prohibitionist. That being said, I would venture a guess for the high school and college sets, beer remains the binge drinkers beverage of choice. One of the many consequences of the binges is an increase risk of alcohol addiction and I would maintain that one can indeed be a beer drinking alcoholic. With that in mind I don't have a problem with Mr. Egelston, wonderful as he may be, having his beer taxed to fund alcohol treatment programs.( Does this view get me in the dictionary next to "sanctimonious" with Weed and Eaton?) What makes you so certain that alcohol treatment programs don't work-isn't that a broad, over-reaching view? Perhaps you are also in the dictionary--might I find you smiling back next to the word "mistaken"?

    As for marijuana, although compelling arguments can be made either way, at least legalizing it would decrease crime and regulate it's manufacture and therefore it's safety so OK by me. Taxing it's production to combat the downside would make sense-so I guess we agree on this point.

    Now we come to your piece de resistance-legalization of prostitution-or as you would say your really progressive idea.(ha)I did actually consider this, aware that the extended periods of time I spent with nuns during my formative years could potentially cloud my thinking. After some reflection, I came to the conclusion, with all due respect, that Mad Dog is out of his mind on this one. In my humble opinion no mentally healthy, emotionally stable, drug and alcohol free person chooses prostitution as their occupation. (Granted I haven't any anecdotal experience on this never having been or known a prostitute-perhaps Mad Dog is more experienced in this area..) Do you believe that the choice to be a prostitute isn't always an act of desperation or the consequence of illness or addiction but can be a carefully considered career choice-maybe one forged in childhood much like the desire to be a doctor or a lawyer? Just another rational way to avoid those pesky student loans? One can only imagine in the event of it's legalization the heartwarming conversations between parent and child:
    Daddy: "So darling, what do you want to be when you grow up?
    Daughter: "Gee Daddy, I'm not sure. Maybe a teacher...or an astronaut...or I know, a prostitute! I'd get to make men happy and best of all I'd get monthly health screenings-it's my dream!!"

    Never did I think Mad Dog and the right wing of the Supreme Court would have anything in common-but never say never. The court says it's OK to be strip searched because you get the added benefit of a free "medical exam" to detect any disease or vermin. Mad Dog says it's OK to be a prostitute because we'll provide you with monthly health screenings to detect any occupational hazards you may have acquired along the way. Of course Mad Dog would argue that the strip search was against one's will where prostitution would be a choice-yah right. I still say remarkably similar views! Say it ain't so Mad Dog..
    Sister Maud

  2. Mad Dog,
    I just found yesterday's paper-one of my kids left it in the garage and neglected to tell me-and I've read the article you are referring to. A 25% tax increase is excessive I'll grant you-but I still think the idea has merit.

  3. Sister Maud,

    1. With respect to beer: The issue here is whether this product exacts a toll on society which a tax may help redress. Thus, we have cigarette taxes to help ameliorate the harm tobacco does, and to discourage the use of tobacco.( And to fatten government coffers.) Beer, on the other hand, even counting the excessive use on campuses, must rate somewhere just above soda pop, with its gratuitous calories, and below pastries and considerably below pizza and nachos in harm done.
    A rough equivalent would be wine, which, for some reason nobody seems to mention as being anything close to a social ill. Wine has better P.R., the movie Sideways, to name just one example. I would have to bet beer does more good for the New Hampshire economy than any of these products. So the risk: benefit ratio of beer production and consumption is way in favor of benefit.

    2. With respect to the idea that alcohol treatment programs are efficacious: I have no hard data to cite, but I will bet you a beer that the average alcohol abuse program has as much chance of changing behavior as Woody Allen's psychiatrist has of curing Woody Allen of his neuroses. Whenever I hear somebody suggest "if only" the Sandy Hook killer had been "under treatment" or "if only" the Aurora shooter had access to a mental health provider or "if only" the Arizona shooter who shot Gabby Giffords had had supervised drug therapy...then, I have to believe, in my heart of hearts, each and every one of those episodes would still have happened. Treatment for depression has been revolutionized by antidepressants, and drugs for schizophrenia, if they are taken faithfully, may make some difference, but for the extreme cases--and from Columbine to Sandy Hook we are talking extreme cases--show me the evidence any expert, any drug any program would likely have prevented these horror shows.
    Congressmen just love to point to the rescue--send money to the "mental health professional" and the Congressman pats himself on the back as if he has just cured global warming.

    3. As for the world of prostitution: I cannot come close to claiming to know much about this under-studied population, but what I hear--almost always from women--is prostitutes are always exploited, demeaned, in their trade out of desperation and because they had no other options. In an otherwise disappointing Downton Abbey, there is one wonderful scene in which Matthew's do good mother is trying to teach sewing skills to prostitutes, thinking she can offer them a better option, and they react as if, "Oh, she is trying to save us. Heaven help us all."
    I can well imagine some prostitutes are victims--like those women in the 2nd season of The Wire.
    But, from what I've seen, I would guess there are prostitutes--who knows the percentage?--who feel empowered by what they do, and who think this is the best money, the easiest money they can make.
    As one woman told me, "At least when I get paid for sex, I am honest about it. What I see of women who call themselves wives, or girlfriends, is they do just what I do, but they have direct deposit to their bank accounts, longer contracts and better severance pay. They don't like their husbands any better than I do, but they have a bigger financial stake in their relationship."
    At any rate, this is a wide spectrum of behavior, and, like war, people are in it for all sorts of different reasons, but the bottom line is the public health and the public coffers.

  4. Mad Dog,
    1.FYI- I don't lie awake at night frantic over the potential social impact of that terrible scourge,beer-a beverage many including myself in the past, readily enjoy. I just think it's reasonable to expect alcohol manufacturers(not just beer) to be among those that contribute to alcohol treatment.

    2. Comparing the treatment of alcohol addiction to attempting to ascertain preemptively who is going to commit a mass shooting is comparing apples to oranges. The former I would expect to have some measure of success, the latter, I agree with you, I wouldn't expect to have much. I'll bet you a six pack that there are alcohol treatment programs out there that do have a higher success rate than Woody's shrink. Even if their success rate is limited, which I have no doubt is the case-like the success rate of treatment for certain cancers-what is the alternative, no treatment?

    3. OK-perhaps there are some independent, empowered prostitutes out there just as there are unstable,addicted, powerless ones. I guess our difference lies in what we consider the majority to be.
    Have a nice day Mad Dog...