maandag, december 16, 2002

Mullah or Mayor?

For 25 years, in the exact same spot in Times Square, a famous billboard for Camel cigarettes blew 15 two-foot tall smoke rings across Broadway. In June of 2001, instead of smoke rings, a quick sign began flashing across a giant television screen: "Quit Yet?"

Since then, Mayor Baffoonberg and the City Council reached an agreement this past Wednesday to extend restrictions on indoor smoking in a bid to protect restaurant and bar employees from the dangers of second-hand smoke. Smoking will still be allowed in some portions of outdoor cafes; in bars that build specially ventilated smoking rooms where employees would not enter; in private clubs such as American Legion halls; in nursing homes and other residential facilities that have smoking rooms; and in existing cigar bars.

Why? Well, for one, according to a Baffoonberg administrative official, he pushed for it "for all the same reasons he pushed the cigarette tax. He makes changes to things that he thinks are important." The cigarette tax raised the tax on each pack from 8 cents to $1.50 and drove the price of some name brands to more than $7 per pack. "You really have to be out of your mind to smoke," Baffoonberg pontificates. "What we are trying to do is provide a smoke-free environment for people." He said his aim in raising that sin tax was to deter smoking by making it prohibitively expensive.

For some very unfunny reason, this fundamentalist's logic against democracy and its related action reminds me of the Taliban's absurdist edicts against everything from all music except religious songs to any books and publications published outside Afghanistan. Bans created because sometimes, the rights of citizens get in the way of the pursuit of pure ideology.

Not long ago, smoking was a pleasurable minor vice indulged in by millions. Today, it is being outlawed everywhere, even though the lion's share of tobacco-company profits go into the coffers of government, as it weeps crocodile tears for the cancer victims. Back in the day when NYC was run by an infinitely more cunning and competent mayor, Rudy Giuliani said he thought, with regards to smoking ban regulations, "you have to balance the interest people have in not being affected by secondary smoke, which is satisfied by the fact that in restaurants there is none, as against the interest of people who want to smoke," the mayor said. "They have a right to make that choice."

Not according to Baffoonberg and his allies who insist that "workplace safety" is their primary concern. According to political puppet and resident sycophant City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, "The purpose here is not to punish smokers but to protect employees."

While it plucks the strings of my heart to know that their concern is so strong for the employees, it should be noted that the American Council on Science and Health considers the hysterical claims by Bloomberg and his anti-smoking toadies in pursuit of their absolutist agenda to be hyperbolistic and absurdist. Further, if these closet autocrats are soooo concerned about employee health, how come they let so many fat and out of shape people on worksites? Isn't a fat cop for example, a bigger risk, not only to himself but to the citizens he is supposed to help protect when he is too out of shape and fat to chase criminals? How risky is it for some fat-ass construction worker handling heavy loads of equipment or materials, not only for the fat-ass himself, but to those around him who might have something big and heavy, like the construction worker himself, fall on some unsuspecting citizen passing by a construction site?

And for that matter, what about fatty fast food establishments and their employees? How healthy is it for people who, as far as I can discern, are by majority, already fat slobs and over-eaters to begin with, to be standing around all that fat, greasy food all day long? How healthy is it for these crazy "out of their mind" people to consume fat, greasy food every day? Isn't the mere existence of unhealthy, fat and greasy fast-food establishments a concern for our paternalistic Tom Thumb mayor?

And what about Bloomberg employees? So concerned as he is for the health of our poor bar and restaurant workers, how does he treat his own employees? You might find the Columbia Journalism Reviews article on what it takes to be a Bloomsberg employee interesting as it notes our merry midget proudly boasts that he makes no apologies for "sweatshop" conditions at Bloomberg Business News. "We hire people who are workaholics," he says. "Anybody I've ever known who's accomplished anything works very hard." So, it might appear that Bloomberg believes that so long as you work hard and "accomplish" something, your health is irrelevant. Of course, this doesn't quite jibe with this alleged passion for the health of workers this anti-smoking bill pretends to concern itself with but hey, this is HIS business we're talking about, not yours.

Further evidence of Bloomberg's great compassion for his workers? They grimly joke about the "Bloomberg waistline," the result of the free Snapple, lunches, and snacks that are always available, enabling them, of course, to remain tied to their computers. In other words, become an unhealthy, over-stressed and over-worked fat-ass and prime heart attack candidate so Mike Baffoonberg can make the big bucks.

Sounds like compassion to me. But the job isn't finished Mayor. There's still plenty more to outlaw. Look at how many things the Taliban was able to outlaw. You're still too far behind and there aren't that many years left until the next elections. You'd better hurry. Accomplish something meaningful. Ban McDonalds.

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