Thursday, July 18, 2013
ON THE AVENUES: Sunscreen, lube, and Dr. Tom's cabin.
A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.
While shopping last Sunday afternoon in Plymouth, England, it occurred to me that never in my life had I seen as many people suffering from explosive, crimson sunburn.
This was not the way it was supposed to be. Apparently the Plymouth spring was cool and rainy, and the gloom extended all the way into summer -- until the precise moment we stepped off the plane at Heathrow.
It’s a three and a half hour train trip from London’s Paddington rail station to Plymouth, and by the time we arrived on the afternoon of July 4, it was 80 degrees and sunny, with a cloudless blue sky. This is the way it stayed the entire time we were there, eleven days in all, before returning for a final night in London, where at least an occasional thin cloud could be seen, albeit without shade.
We should have invoiced them, such was their delight at having brought such lovely weather.
Daytime temperatures then rose to the mid-eighties, which doesn’t sound like much for the Ohio Valley, but can be brutal in a place like England, which largely is without air conditioning. Usually there’s no need. The historic absence of hot summer sunshine might explain the prices for sunscreen, nudging toward $15 at a drugstore in the Cornish coastal town of Looe.
We bought it anyway. Beets are meant to be eaten, not worn, and I feared that Dr. Tom Harris might be watching, ready to parachute down and levy a sunburn tax.
Just before shipping out of town for our excursion to merry old England, I learned that the Floyd County Health Department had finally, presumably grudgingly, deigned to schedule a board hearing for NABC’s contention that it possesses absolutely no statutory precedent for its recent awakened control fetish, whereby temporary beer vendors are expected to purchase temporary food permits each time plastic cups are filled.
Of course Harris, the agency’s chieftain already has gone on record in the newspaper to dismiss NABC’s case before it has been scheduled, much less heard, which naturally makes a mockery of due process, and not coincidentally belies an institutional arrogance with which local food service purveyors have long been intimately, and painfully, familiar.
It is significant, but entirely unsurprising, that I’ve yet to be personally informed by the FCHD of this July 25 hearing date before the board. Transparency and humor aren’t the only qualities eluding the agency’s mandate, communications from whom unfailingly conjure an image of kidney stones passing or Liteweights failing to fathom real beer flavor. I know the date only because my legal advisor, Laszlo, was dispatched to confer with the department’s lawyer, proving yet again that common sense invariably is not.
Kindly know that it is my longtime habit to allow sleeping dogs and regulators their detached snoozing, while their snores are sufferable, but when the fangs are bared and a bureaucrat’s eyes begin to lie, I can’t hide my desire to fight back with as much rhetorical firepower as can be mustered.
However, this scrap isn't something to be concluded without measured deliberation, and accordingly, having decided there are important principles of jurisdiction involved, I’m in this game to win even as it annoys me to no end that I must be playing charades like these against my will.
Except that time-wasting charades probably are the department's point.
To me, perhaps the single most important aspect of this foolishness is arriving at a determination of its exact instigator. Neither a computer nor Fortuna’s wheel can be blamed; this is a human’s gambit. Someone in the FCHD decided to push this particular newfangled envelope, perhaps at his or her own behest, or maybe because outside interests decided that a campaign of petty harassment would be amusing.
It is impossible to preclude culpability on the part of elected officials, particularly those in the county, whose cowardice toward funding their own agencies constantly promotes a “hold your own bake sale if you want money” mentality. Hypothetically, it’s a short step from prevailing county governmental dysfunction to someone in the health department concluding that there is a way to raise a few extra dollars, and if no one protests, a potential turf precedent useful for tightening future vises, both here and elsewhere in the state.
They’ll not land such a precedent without a struggle, because the fact remains that beer and brewing are the domains of the federal government in the brewhouse, and the state of Indiana at the point of dispense. NABC is amply regulated by those entities entitled to do so. There’s a reason why it’s always worked this way, and there needs to be proof why this way has suddenly changed. Pretending "it's always been" is purely Orwellian, and needs to be exposed for the fraudulence such attitudes foist.
It is my belief that the Floyd County Health Department is holding a pair of threes and bluffing. I could be wrong, and we’ll know soon enough. Irrespective of the outcome next week, rest assured that matters will not stop here. As a director on the board of the Brewers of Indiana Guild, I’ll be pushing for legislative clarifications at the state level. Meanwhile, I’d love to explain all of my impending game strategies, but cannot do so until showtime at last arrives.
Suffice to say that if what I’ve heard to date about the FCHD’s chosen justification is true, there’s no more principle involved on its end than the typical napping mutt's, who licks his nuts primarily because he can.
That’s fine for the canine, but shouldn’t we expect something a bit more elevated than semantics, coin flips and an exaggerated sense of self-importance from the Olympian guardians of public safety?