Feather Signs, Tanning Beds and Big Gulps, OH MY!

My girlfriend did me a bit of a favor last night.  She insisted on watching the local news (I hate television news and rarely force myself to watch it anymore)…but there were three ongoing stories from the NYC/Long Island region that fit beautifully into one bit of narrative.  New York is chasing California down the liberty sinkhole faster than you can say “Big Brother is Watching.”

It’s not happening in every township at the same speed, nor do any of these particular issues strike me as big deals in and of themselves.  But, little by little, they’re managing to make the legal books swell to levels last seen in top-heavy Rome under Nero.  We’ll go through the fun and joy one item at a time.

BIG SODA

This is actually rather old news, but it’s back in the headlines due to civil protests and a lawsuit recently entered by Coca Cola’s not-insignificant legal team.  Mayor Bloomberg – evidently not busy enough at his job of growing business in NYC, improving a frequently filthy and unreliable subway system, preventing crime and dealing with poverty, union contracts, and all other manner of real city business – has decided to make war on obesity.  By decreeing that no city business may sell soda in sizes larger than 16 fl. oz.  Never mind that his ban doesn’t apply to fruit drinks like Ocean Spray, which have more calories than soda.  Never mind that it doesn’t address the far more important weight-problem-causing factors like lack of exercise (although his failing subway system does that quite nicely by forcing everyone to walk more), sedentary jobs, or those $5 mocha lattes brimming with sugar and fat.  Never mind that a customer can simply buy TWO 16-ounce drinks if he wants 32 ounces of soda.  The biggest question on even most liberal democrats’ minds in the city is…what will he ban next?

TANNING BEDS

As of yesterday, it is now illegal for a teenager to get an artificial tan in the state of New York.  I share the common reaction to obsessive tanning going on among our teens – disgust.  They’re going to be leathery hags when they’re 50.  And many of them are going to get skin cancer, since chances are good that if they’re getting the fake tan, they’re not going to shy away from the beach and the lightest of SPF sunscreens, rather than getting the protection they need.  I have even been told that tanning beds are riskier than the sun because certain wavelengths of light are absent as compared to the sun and those are the ones that make your skin feel pain most acutely, meaning people are more likely to stay in there longer and get a worse dose of radiation.  But…how many potentially dangerous and even emotionally addictive things do we let kids do every…single…day?  And how many of those things will we ban (and at what cost to their development)?  I mean, sports can be addictive, kids even get severely injured on a regular basis playing them…and hey…a few even die on the field.  We let kids eat Big Macs…some people have claimed fast food addiction and I don’t see many towns banning McDonalds (and the ones that do have generally filled the same market demand with local restaurants just as unhealthy as the burger giants).  There is legitimate evidence that sugary food causes changes in your intestinal flora and fauna and can thus create a chemical addiction to more of the same sugars.  Shall we take away Frosted Flakes, birthday cakes and licorice snakes?

FEATHER SIGNS

For an example of what a feather sign looks like, go here.

Several towns on Long Island, including the most recent addition of Hempstead (not a town known for its rustic charm or upscale appeal – sorry guys, but your town is a dump), have moved to ban feather signs with their politicians making outlandish claims including: the signs cause drivers to become distracted trying to read them, the signs are an eyesore – somehow more intrusive than billboards or store front banners or those crazy “wacky-waving inflatable arm-flailing tube-men” you see in front of car dealerships, the signs promote additional advertising that would not otherwise occur, etc.  If you went to the site, you know that these signs are among the least annoying, most attractive signs around – very shapely and elegant as advertisements go.  I fail to see how such signs are any more dangerous for drivers than those electronic boards they use to create traffic jams to warn drivers of an upcoming traffic jam.  And frankly…PERISH THE THOUGHT that people might use their first amendment right to speak to…um…advertise things!  Oh the horror!!  But alas, I believe in Federalism, and thus I believe that towns should have a right to decide how they will look.  I just wish the folks in Hempstead would focus on something that matters – like their rapidly rising crime rate or the crumbling section eight housing or their insanely high property taxes.

But these news stories – all hitting the Long Island evening report on the same day – have one thing in common.  Governments – state, city and township – trying to extract a better result, stave off the negative, and FIX people with a blizzard of new laws.  In the case of tanning beds, the government is playing the role of father to the legions of girls who are growing up either with parents who haven’t grown up and are just as selfish, shallow and vain as their teenage daughters or without those role models entirely.  The parents have dropped the ball and government thinks the answer is to try to be the parents.  In the case of Bloomberg’s soda ban, the people are making bad choices and the Mayor thinks it’s his job to make them stop.  And in the case of the feather signs, town councils have decided for everyone what they think is the appropriate level of advertising that should be allowed, replacing the first amendment with the heavy hand of the taste police.

Where does it end?  When do we decide that the only way to fix our problems is to take control of our own destinies and work for what we want?  When will we stop looking to the law to save us from our failings and start looking to God?  Or if you’re an atheist…to your own judgment (not that I think personal judgment is an adequate replacement).

Funny thing…my girlfriend fervently defended the tanning bed ban.  I gave her a twenty minute sermon on the slippery slope of ever-increasing government intervention and she went off mumbling her basic agreement with me that most of these kinds of things are over-reaches, but insisting that tanning beds shouldn’t be allowed for the young and impressionable.  Baby steps, I suppose.

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