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Medical Alert

Lawmakers can't leave booze alone


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Yes, my formerly septic elbow is doing fine. Thanks for asking. Whereas a few weeks ago I could easily insert the better part of a Valencia orange into the gaping wound on my left arm, today there’s barely room in there for a fava bean. I just left the doc this morning (the incredibly nice Dr. David Howe, whom I’d trust with my other arm and both knees as well), and while not fully given the green light, I am well enough to type with both hands now. I know, I know—shame on the good doctor for curing me.

I’m off the antibiotics now. And I finished off the last of the painkillers a couple of weeks ago. I was taking Oxycodone four times a day for a while there. I’m grateful the pain was alleviated, but otherwise, I came away wondering how people become addicted to the stuff—lying on my butt and watching TV all day is pain-killing enough without adding in such complications as constipation, stomach upset and drowsiness. I really am sympathetic to anyone who becomes dependent on painkillers—and God knows they are legion—but for me the pain was less worrisome than the side effects, and I couldn’t see the attraction to heavy consumption of pain medication.

I asked someone about that, and he said, “Well, what do you expect, you weren’t drinking.” Oh. I was only engaged in half the addiction cocktail—just taking the painkillers and not washing them down with Jack Daniels. It never occurred to me to really screw things up by using Percocet as a martini garnish. No matter, they’re all gone, and it won’t be any time soon that I rifle through a party host’s medicine cabinet looking for a fix.

On the other hand, I remain of the mind that if I’m invited to a house party, searching obscure crevices for the really good whiskey remains fair game. I mean, who hasn’t been invited to a nice house where you know the host always drinks top shelf when he’s out on the town or courting his mistress, but then when he invites you to his own house party, he offers up $4-a-gallon vodka? Or everything’s in decanters so you never see the label, and what he calls “malt scotch” tastes more like Scotch tape. Someone who hides good whiskey deserves the wrath of the one who finds it.

That’s why I’m seldom shy about expressing my wrath for nincompoops like Sens. Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, and John Valentine, R-Orem. Those two serial “holier than thou” legislators expect drinking Utahns to consume as much heavily taxed liquor as possible so they can pay their un-Godly debts while at the same time they piously want to hide liquor from Utahns. Year in and year out, Waddoups and Valentine legislatively meddle in a liquor industry they both despise, yet both are addicted to the profits from that liquor. Think not? Then let’s see them balance the Utah budget without the benefit of a couple hundred million in liquor revenues—abetted by that liquor marked up at the state-monopoly-ransom rate of 84 percent. A drunken blind man has a better sense of balance than Waddoups and Valentine.

And the drunk is more fair and honest, too. Take the latest liquor outrage from these two otherwise sober gentlemen. A state liquor licensee in Eden managed to do the impossible: lose money selling legal liquor in Utah. After some wrangling, insurance-policy payments and misplaced finger pointing, it was determined Utah was out just over $100,000 in lost whiskey. Being the boobs they are, Waddoups and Valentine brandished some audit papers and raised holy hell with Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Chairman Sam Granato and executive director Dennis Kellen, accusing them of negligence and mismanagement. It was a grandstanding moment seldom seen outside of church basketball courts, where folks like Waddoups and Valentine routinely blame the refs because their kids can’t make foul shots.

Appointed as DABC chairman by former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Granato opened up liquor hearings to the public and kept his promises for a transparent system of granting liquor licenses—a slight the Legislature is sure to end, because, after all, while folks like Waddoups and Valentine want fewer licenses made available (wink), they want them to go to the right kind of people (wink, wink), the ones who line their pockets (wink, wink, ka-chink). Before rising to the post of executive director, Kellen worked for the DABC for decades managing the massive warehouse and overseeing its modernization, which saved Utah untold sums over the years. Granato has a picture of the LDS prophet on his office walls. Kellen frames images of his time spent in combat in Vietnam. Granato is direct and soft-spoken. Dennis Keller is a gentleman, but one suspects that if he had his druthers, he’d be making whiners like Waddoups and Valentine cry for their supper.

Together, Granato and Kellen have produced what, now—a billion dollars in revenue for Utah in the past 5 years? Enough to feed all of Waddoups’ and Valentine’s kids, plus leave some over for every other kid in the Utah public school system to boot. Yet Waddoups and Valentine make like there’s been some highway robbery going on over less than 1/1000th of total liquor department revenues. That’s like the school board taking it out on the Teacher of the Decade for having a C student.

Or, it’s business as usual at hypocrisy central, Utah’s Capitol Hill. Hey, John and Michael—what say you have our dear governor pay off that secret $13 million he spent on the highway contract gone awry without the benefit of liquor taxes and revenues. Or try to pay HeatWurx, Valentine’s very own pothole-repair company that surreptitiously came into a sweetheart state contract. What’s that? Can’t do it? Then shut up and take your meds.