Friday, June 17, 2005

Nanny needs a good long bath

Nanny stinks so bad, it will take a firehose and all the laundry detergent that China can produce to subdue the odor. Browsing a few blogs today, I found this incredible post from Balko over at The Agitator. If only we had more people like this in Canada, but alas, their reasoned arguments fall on ears plugged up with fake beaver fur.

Last night a colleague here at Cato brought up a great line in the sexual harassment episode of South Park in which Gerald Brovslofski explains to Kyle that sexual harassment laws were written by Democrats to tell us what we should think, feel, and say in the workplace. Kyle responds, "Isn't that fascism?"

Gerald replies, "No, because we don't call it fascism."

That's the feeling I got while sitting through seven hours of tedious Washington D.C. City Council hearings yesterday on the proposed (and now inevitably) smoking ban coming to the nation's capital. I was told to show up at 10:30am to give my testimony. I finally got to speak at a little after 5.

The D.C. government already uses the force of law to compell D.C. residents to wear a seatbelt while driving, to not speak on a cell phone while driving, to wear a motorcycle helmet, and -- soon -- they'll tell business owners they're forbidden from allowing people to smoke in their establishments.

But none of this is fascism.

Why not? Because the people pushing these laws don't call it fascism. They call it "public health."

A few of my favorite moments from yesterday's hearings:

# Listening to the insufferable Jim Graham lecture every smoking ban proponent on the dangers of smoking as if they were a six-year old child. Graham's questioning was the paternalistic government personified.

# Christopher Hitchens amusing appearance and testimony in which he told Graham, "you're treating us like children -- retarded children."

# One witness pointed out that the two bills calling for an outright ban on public smoking in the District specifically exempt city government from the ban. Typical.

# A former Congressman named Al Swift appeared before the council and spoke in a manner that was slow, deliberate, and reeked of "my opinion is extra important because I'm a former Congressman." He said that he fully supported the smoking ban, but that he was worried about "unintended consequences. He explained, "I like to go to cigar bars, and because cigar smoking is my favorite kind of smoking, it should be exempted."

In other words, "this ban should apply to everyone in the city, except for people like me." Why doesn't it surprise me that such an attitude would come from a former Congressman?

Inexplicably, Jim Graham agreed with him, noting that cigar bars were "special" places where people gathered to smoke, socialize, and eat and drink.

So as I understand it, then, you're allowed to go out with friends, smoke, eat, and drink only if you're the kind of person who smokes cigars and frequents cigar bars (read: old, white, wealthy, and influential). Those kinds of people should get an exemption. People who want to go out with friends who happened to prefer cigarettes are, simply, out of luck.

# An official representing the American Lung Assocation made a pretty stunning statement, one that went overlooked when it happened. Graham asked the guy at what level of exposure to second hand smoke a person's risk of various ailments increases. The ALA rep said it takes frequent exposure over a very long period of time for risk of serious illness to significantly increase. In fact, he said, even among smokers, a person would need to smoke a pack per day for ten or twenty years before that person would significantly raise his risk of lung cancer.

This official then turned right around and insisted that secondhand smoke was a health threat.

I'm not an epidemiologist. But I have a hard time figuring out how those two statements can exist side by side.

# Good governance. I don't believe a majority of the council was ever present at the same time during the hearings. Schwartz, to her credit, was there for the whole thing -- or at least until I left. Graham was there for most of it, though he took a couple of breaks. My speech at 5:15, for example, was to only Schwartz and one staffer. Graham came in at the tail end of it (and promptly asked me a question that showed he completely missed my point). Harcore smoking ban proponent was there for less than an hour, and questioned only one witness (out of about 140). To my knowlege, no other councilmember was there for more than an hour.
Be sure to read Balko's testimony!

HT: Jerry Aldini.

Also be sure to check out Jay's latest post, "Got Your Brain Bucket On, Citizen?" Pay attention People's Republic of Ontario - we'll be sporting the safety armour soon.
Vancouver Police Bicycle Helmet Education and Enforcement Program

British Columbia has had a mandatory bicycle helmet law since 1996. In Vancouver, many cyclists are complying with this law. However, there are still a significant number of cyclists that are not wearing helmets.

ICBC statistics show that wearing a bicycle helmet decreases the risk of head injury by 85%.

The Vancouver Police Department's goal is to increase helmet use amongst cyclists in an effort to decrease the risk of injury.
And just how do the police propose to do this. Why, through the use of force, of course:
The Vancouver Police Department will start a targeted bicycle helmet enforcement initiative on June 15 th which will run until June 30 th, 2005. Regular enforcement will continue throughout the rest of the year. Fines will be issued to offenders to encourage compliance with the rules. Police will also be ensuring cyclist are complying with other regulations such as having required lights at night.
The whole notion of criminality has been destroyed in this country. Nutcases like this can cross the border with a coffee and a handshake and yet a peaceful citizen who chooses to *gasp* mount his bike without protective head gear gets three days in jail!
The province's civil-liberties director is condemning a three-day jail term served by a Kelowna man for not wearing a bicycle helmet

Michael Hein, 19, got out of jail Tuesday after he was arrested Saturday for riding his bike downtown without head protection. A judge sentenced him to time served and fined him $35 for breaking the city's helmet bylaw
Crossposted at Dust my Broom.

Update: Pooh comments here and here.


Pietr said...

Talking of China,anybody else see that suggled video?
I mean the one showing a violent uprising in China this week.

Pietr said...

SMUGGLED,I meant.Bloody keyboard.The M won't work properly.

Lisa said...

No - do you have an url handy? I could check google but I'm lazy right now.

Mike said...

Sieg Health!

Aller Besitz ist allgemeiner Besitz, und alle Leute allgemeine Leute sind!

Pietr said...

You aren't going to like this but I got it on terrestrial TV!(UK Channel 4).

Pietr said...

This is the best I could find.I don't think it is the same,but it is interesting nevertheless.
(perhaps someone could direct me to instructions on writing html hyperlinks?)

Lisa said...

To make a hyperlink, merely use the following html coding:

a href="url" surrounded by the <>html brackets, then the text you want to be a link, then the letter a also surrounded by the <> html brackets

You have to put some text between the tags so that readers know you are linking to something. Like this:


Hope that's clear enough.

Matt said...

Lisa, I hope you caught Gene Healy's latest on smoking bans, laughing in Volokh Conspiracist Orin Kerr's face:

"Government: it's not just to protect you from force and fraud anymore. It can also help you overcome collective action problems in your social life!"

Lisa said...


I did see the Healy article which you linked to on your blog and thought it was excellent.

I also noticed this one concerning the surgeon general:

Testifying at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on smokeless tobacco and "reduced risk" tobacco products, Carmona was asked if he would "support the abolition of all tobacco products."

"I would at this point, yes," he replied.

He declined to state whether he would support a law to ban tobacco -- saying "legislation is not my field" -- but did say that he "would support banning or abolishing tobacco products."

"If Congress chose to go that way, that would be up to them," he said. "But I see no need for any tobacco products in society."