Sunday, December 31, 2006

Predictions for the New Year?

I thought that since this is a holiday, I would continue on a lighter theme for just one more column. We had our share of goofy laws this year, and some goofy proposed laws that, fortunately, didn't quite make it.

This fall Omaha joined other jurisdictions in banning smoking in many businesss establishments. However, the ban was only partial: Horsemen's Park (a horseracing establishment) and keno parlors were curiously exempt. Could it be that the government was more concerned about protecting its own tax revenues from these activities than protecting the public health? Hmm. In any event, you are supposed to call 911 if you observe a violation. I'm sure Omaha's finest will get around to those complaints - right after they finish solving the latest burglaries and shootings.

Chicago officials discussed a ban of foie gras along with proposed labeling for restaurant menus concerning health characteristics of food. Labeling will be expensive, and business will have to pass along these costs to their customers - many of whom do not care. Chicago's mayor promptly called foul on these food foibles, but who knows whether other cities will have a similarly sensible mayor.

The sentiment for legislation to implement health and well-being is surely not going to die easily in 2007. Just for fun, I'm listing some possible legislative initiatives for the coming year. Feel free to comment with any of your own you would like to add to the list.

First, as long as we are dealing with behavior in bars, concerns about public wellbeing should not end with smoking. Boorish behavior arguably pollutes the environment just as much as smoke. It is about time the government did something about this problem. A national registry, perhaps?

Second, advertising is becoming so pervasive in this country that we must consider its potential effects on the human psyche. Advertisers need some sensitivity training, especially during the holiday season. I was distressed to read that "Happy Honda Days" were going to end on January 2. If you are going to declare happy days, then isn't it cruel to put a terminal date on them? Why not make every day a happy one?

Third, with all the public handwringing about human causes of global warming, I think that we are overlooking very obvious sources for the production of gases that harm the atmosphere. Certain restaurants may be unwittingly contributing to this problem more than many other establishments. If the government doesn't weigh in on this, I imagine the ecologically conscious will come up with something. (Like planting a tree for every bowl of chili?)

Finally, at this time of year pet-owners (oops - human companions of animal friends) often dress up Fido and Tinkerbelle in costumes to celebrate the holidays. These animals were not meant to be wearing reindeer horns, for goodness sake. They look ridiculous, and I am quite sure they are humiliated. (Moreover, can you imagine the trauma to a real reindeer of knowing that they may be related to a Chihuahua?) If we are not appropriately conscious of these animal feelings, perhaps the government will make us so.

Thanks for reading this year. And happy 2007.

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