20,000 comments under the sea

OrangePolitics passed the 20,000 comment mark yesterday! (See counter in top-right of each page.) Here's an open thread, keep 'em coming...


Over at Blue NC, The Southern Dem started a post called Net Neutrality: We're Screwed. Its about the remarks of Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) concerning Net Neutrality and technology in general. He is so confused and misinformed its scary. Listen to the MP3.

I would like to offer my consulting services to ANY politician about technology. Just send me an email and I'll respond. I'll talk to you on the phone, come to your office. call you when ever you like, and speak to your staff too. I'm patient, polite, and won't talk down to you. Why do I want to do this? Because we need INFORMED representatives in the 21st century.

I seriously doubt that Stevens is misinformed.

IMHO, he has a position on the issue, bought and paid for. He's just sowing as much FUD as he can, since his opponents appear to be gaining momentum.

I can never remember the exact quote, or who said it, but it runs something like "it's impossible to convince somebody of the facts when the facts are in opposition to his personal interest." (That's a very loose paraphrase.)

Belated congratulations! 20,000. Whew. That's a lot of comments! And I'm betting you're personally read 99.9% of them. Which is one reason OP is such a great blog.

I think the Town of Chapel Hill should let local voters decide wether or not to impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney. Much like Berkeley, CA is doing. Impeachment To Be On Berkeley Ballot

The left-leaning city of Berkeley will let voters decide whether to call for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

The City Council voted Tuesday night to put the advisory measure on the Nov. 7 ballot. The move is symbolic because only Congress has impeachment powers.

Some cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, have passed resolutions calling for impeachment, but supporters say Berkeley would be the first city asking voters to decide.

Chapel Hill has already passed a resolution to impeach Bush. Here is the PDF.

I wish the state would let local governments enact stricter smoking restrictions.

According to the :

Activists say they will push a bill next session that would allow local governments in Mecklenburg County to ban smoking in all workplaces, even bars and restaurants.

The group is Smoke-Free Mecklenburg. I wonder what it'd take to get Orange Country and/or Carrboro and Chapel Hill included in this bill?

Oops, my code was messed up. That article is from the News & Observer.

Makes you miss the preview window, I really really miss the preview window.
As to the issue, we should have some local officials lurking around that might respond.

Screening of Documentary Film: Flag Wars

Wednesday, July 26, 7 p.m.
Center for Documentary Studies Auditorium
Free and open to the public

FLAG WARS (Linda Goode Bryant)
Shot over four years, Flag Wars is a poignant ninety-minute account of economic competition between two historically oppressed groups, seen through the politics and pain of gentrification. The setting could be any city with a once-stable working- and middle-class black community, now aging and economically depressed, in danger of losing control of their neighborhoods as wealthier home buyers gentrify block by block. In this case, the neighborhood is in Columbus, Ohio, and the home buyers are largely white and gay.

The resulting conflicts are a case study of differences in perception. Where realtors and buyers see run-down homes, black residents see evidence of institutional racism that steered resources away from this community. What newer residents see as a beneficial effort to renovate and restore value, veteran residents see as an assault on their heritage and a threat to their ability to hold on to their homes.

The events in Flag Wars unfold against a backdrop of racism, homophobia, and tensions between privilege and poverty. Mix in government zoning boards, the court system, lending institutions, and civic leaders, and you've got a film that literally hits people “where they live.” Flag Wars explores the complexity of gentrification and the contradictions between intention and result, belief and action. It goes beyond merely assigning blame or labeling people as good guys or bad guys to examine the relationship between housing, heritage, and public policy.

For more information about Flag Wars: http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2003/flagwars/

I'm opposed to mandatory smoking bans in situations where there is room for choice. Banning smoking on airplanes, in government offices, in classrooms and so on -- places where it is impossible to provide an alternative -- makes sense to me. But if I run a bar, and I post a sign outside that says "this is a smoking establishment," and if I inform every employee and potential employee that this is a smoking establishment and that second-hand smoke is as sure a killer as first-hand smoke and that they will be exposed to it, then I see no reason why adults can't make the decision to either be employed there or to patronize the place of their own free will. And if the economic argument -- that going smoke-free generally improves business in most cases -- is true, and I think it is, then I think what you'd likely see is most places going smoke-free of their own volition, with only a few holdouts catering to a niche clientele and staffed by people informed of the risk of second-hand smoke and willing to work there anyway.

I'm a smoker, but I'm sympathetic to the desire of nonsmokers and those at health risk to be able to enjoy themselves, or conduct their business, free from secondhand smoke. I realize that the laissez faire suggestion I've just made isn't perfect -- for instance, what about places, like music clubs, that aren't strictly bars or performance spaces, and where it's nearly impossible to segregate one from the other -- and I worry about these exceptions. So I'm just throwing this out for discussion, because I'd truly like to arrive at a solution that protects the health of those who want to protect it, and still allows me to have a place where I can have a cigarette with a cup of coffee, or with a beer, without having to be exiled outside.

Certainly, I think if more merchants and other owners of semi-public space knew of the economic benefits of going smoke free, and could see some case studies for businesses similar to theirs, many would decide to go smoke free. This information is out there, and perhaps someone knows where it's been pulled together. Lighting up in a place clearly marked as a non-smoking establishment should be trespassable. Incentives -- either negative or positive -- could be adopted to encourage smoking establishments to continually improve their ventilation systems. (A possible outcome of this, especially a negative incentive like a fee or fine, might be to raise the cost of doing business for a smoking establishment, which in turn might encourage even more places to go smoke-free.)

Anyway, if I could be left with just _one_ place where I can have a drink, a cigarette, and a cup of coffee in peace, in a public establishment where I can meet my friends, I'll be happy. I certainly don't want to hurt anyone.

Ideas welcome!

Duncan, I think your argument is somewhat sound for patrons... not so much for employees. If I agree to work for less than minimum wage, does that make it okay for the employer to pay me less? If I agree to unsafe working conditions, do OSHA rules not apply?

People who work in restaurants are not always in a position to choose the best work environment. Employers should not be allowed to exploit the health of their workers simply because the workers feel they have no other economic choice.

If New York and London and Ireland (Ireland!) can do it, then we should be able to here in Carrboro. I'm one of those kids who grew up breathing my parents' second-hand smoke in airplanes, restaurants, cars, etc (back in the day when we were told to just get over our dislike of it!), and I have little sympathy for people who want to smoke in public facilities.

Duncan, head for the Orange County Social Club. Daytime/early evening is best if you want to talk to your friends without shouting. The place gets very crowded and LOUD later on.

Also, the new Milltown patio will be heated in winter and their beer selection is dazzling.


That all makes sense. I suppose I'm just groping around for a solution that would allow adults to come together and smoke without endangering anyone else who wants to avoid smoke. What if I want to go someplace to smoke specifically because I _don't_ want to put my child at risk, or to influence them by my example? Or any other child? Private smoking clubs? Non-profit, volunteer-run smoking facilities?

I don't know how the bans in London and Ireland have played out (Ireland's is new, right?), but I've spent a bunch of time in New York since the city enacted its ban, and it's spawned a number of interesting developments. First, it's undeniable that, in general, revenues are up in most of the sectors of the hospitality industry that were forced to switch to a non-smoking policy.

But, as often happens with the prohibition of a vice, some loopholes have been found and exploited. In New York, the most prominent loophole is the exception for cigar bars. In the West Village there's a cool old bar that declared itself a cigar bar shortly before the ban. This has allowed it's clientele, mostly artsy West Village types, to keep smoking their cigarettes in the place. It's also meant that a crowd of Wall Streeters shows up most nights to actually smoke cigars, and so the bar has developed a curious, weird vibe, with a line of demarcation dividing the front of the house (hipsters) from the back of the house (cigar people with money). It's an interesting sort of social experiment, if you're into that kind of thing.

I don't know how many other bars have become "cigar bars" or "private smoking lounges" (another odd category that has popped up in New York since the ban), but the websites that cobble together the latest information on places to smoke in New York give the impression that most of the places you can smoke are cigar bars or private lounges. And there's a surprising number of such places.

There are also a surprising number of old local joints that simply ignore the ban, generally with the approval of their clientele. These places have calculated that there are too few people to enforce the rules everywhere, that their patrons aren't going to turn them in, and that their desire to keep things as they were outweighs the risk of being caught. These aren't the kinds of places you find on lists; you just have to know about them.

My point, really, is that smokers will find a way, and it would be in the interest of good public policy to write an ordinance that takes this into consideration. Otherwise, people will figure out a way to make a mockery of the ordinance.

But smokers have some obligations. In the interest of common sense and decency, smokers need to once and for all acknowledge that secondhand smoke is dangerous and that, as a consequence, their freedom to smoke in public will have to be curbed. Perhaps not eliminated (that would be my hope), but much more severely restricted. This is inevitable, this is the right thing to do, and smokers should quit their bellyaching about it.


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