Here is the New York Daily News’s front page:
The Post and the Times front pages aren’t online yet.
Well, it’s official. As of midnight, it is illegal to smoke cigarettes at virtually any workplace — including restaurants and bars — anywhere in New York. This is nothing new for New York City, which had already instituted its own citywide smoking ban, but an even broader ban now applies throughout the whole state.
Up in the Buffalo area, bar patrons and bar owners are notably pissed off about this, as I learned last week when I went to several bars with Becky and her friends. At each bar, there were signs posted like this:
Now, mind you, I’m no great champion of smokers’ rights. I’m an asthmatic whose father is a hardcore nicotine addict and whose ex-girlfriend has an idiotic habit of “smoking socially” to such an extent that she’s going to be addicted pretty soon too. I personally think cigarettes are gross and disgusting. I don’t like them. I don’t like them at all.
So I have no problem with bans on smoking in public places and workplaces, including restaurants. Indeed, I support such bans. This isn’t just based on my personal feelings about cigarettes; the dangers of second-hand smoke are such that, logically, the old “my right to swing my arm ends where your nose begins” principle clearly applies. If it’s a battle of liberties between your right to smoke and my right to breathe, the latter clearly wins.
But bars? I’m not so sure we should be banning smoking in bars. Given the fact that there aren’t too many non-smoking bars out there — which market forces dictate that there would be if lots of people wanted them — I think we can safely state that a large majority of bar patrons either: 1) like having the right to smoke; or 2) are indifferent toward whether they have that right or not. So a law that bans smoking in bars is effectively putting the interests of a small minority ahead of the interests of a large majority. But why? What’s the justification for such an anti-democratic move?
Ostensibly, at least, it’s a health issue, and the same “my rights vs. your rights” argument that I discussed above applies. But in the case of bars, I think the calculus is different. People have a legitimate and reasonable expectation of healthy air in workplaces and restaurants. But people don’t go to bars to be healthy. They go to bars specifically to be unhealthy — to eat, drink, and be merry (and drink some more).
Bar patrons’ right to breathe free air is diluted by the fact that they have already made a conscious choice to enter a mecca of unhealthy behavior. If people don’t want to breathe smoky air in a bar, they could just — here’s a stunning concept — not go to bars.
That would be an unreasonable statement if we were talking about restaurants or other workplaces, but in the case of bars, it makes sense to me. Is the ability to publicly drink alcohol in healthy atmospheric conditions an unalienable right that needs to be defended by state action?
Essentially, what this boils down to is not right-to-smoke vs. right-to-breathe, but rather, right-to-smoke vs. right-to-drink. In that case, there is no compelling state interest either way, so I say, let people have their poison. Don’t regulate. Leave well enough alone.
Moreover, as I indicated above, if enough people want to drink publicly without either smoking or inhaling other patrons’ cigarette smoke — i.e., if they want to enjoy their drug of choice, alcohol, without suffereing the side effect of somebody else’s drug of choice, nicotine — surely market forces will conspire to create non-smoking bars for them to patronize. Where there’s a will, there’s a way; and where there’s a demand, there’s a supply.
The only somewhat strong argument I can think of for a ban on smoking in bars involves not so much bar patrons, but bar employees. I can’t dismiss this point too easily, since there is a possibility that I could end up working at a bar sometime in the next year, if I get desperate enough for cash. So you could argue that a smoking ban is justified to protect me, and other desperate unemployed people like me, who don’t really want to work at bars but are forced to do so by an unforgiving job market.
You could make that case if you want, but I wouldn’t. I don’t think the state needs to cater to my needs quite to that extent. If bars were exempted from the ban, this law would still ensure that there are plenty of smoke-free workplaces for me, or anyone else, to work at. No one is really “forced” to work at a bar; if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. So I just don’t see why the desires of the few should outweigh the desires of the many in this case.
In the case of bars, I say the majority should rule. If people want to kill themselves slowly, in public, that should be their right, as long as they’re not doing it in a fashion that harms other people who are actually making an effort to be stay healthy.
We have the right to do stupid things to ourselves. This is America, dammit.
NBC 4 interviews with eyewitnesses to the New York City Hall shootings:
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The beginning of the NBC 4 local news, with coverage of the New York City Hall shootings:
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I’ll bet either the Post or the Daily News, if not both, will use Mayor Bloomberg’s “Attack on Democracy” quote as a headline in tomorrow’s paper.
“I’ve had some tough days in my life, and some very tough days in City Hall. But I don’t think I’ve had as tough a day in 61 years as today,” Mayor Bloomberg said, according to ABC 7.
ABC 7 also reports: “According to other council members, Davis had been introducing Askew around as someone who had been his opponent, but was now pledging support to Davis.”
The New York Times, too, is now calling Askew “a political opponent” instead of “apparently a political rival.” The Times elaborates:
Investigators said the killing might have stemmed from a simmering political dispute between Councilman Davis, 41, of Brooklyn, and the gunman, Othniel Askew, 31, who had planned to challenge Mr. Davis this fall for his seat representing central Brooklyn in the Council.
Mr. Askew had been able to slip his gun into City Hall by accompanying the councilman, who did not have to pass through metal detectors, officials said.
Law enforcement officials said Mr. Askew made a complaint to the Federal Bureau of Investigation just yesterday morning accusing Mr. Davis of trying to drive him from the Council race, first by offering him a job and then by threatening to disclose unflattering personal information about him. But the councilman’s office said that Mr. Askew had failed to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot and that it was Mr. Askew who had approached the councilman about a job.
Yesterday, Mr. Askew showed up at the councilman’s office at midday and asked if he could accompany Mr. Davis to the Council meeting, and Mr. Davis obliged, officials said.
Also, in another bitter note of irony, Davis — had planned to introduce a resolution at Wednesday’s meeting aimed at preventing violence in the workplace, according to the Times.
By the way, I have now created a blog category featuring all my posts related to today’s shooting at New York City Hall.
Village Voice columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates has a crush on Condoleezza Rice:
I’ve got a running joke with my girlfriend. It starts in an alternate reality where I’m 20 years older, single, and childless. I’ve also gone all John Hinckley over Condi Rice, and somehow I manage to finagle my way into a social event where she is a guest. When she’s off to herself and no one’s looking, I whisper in her ear, “I hate everything you stand for. You take orders from a tribe of orcs who worship the Stone Age and mistake myopia for morality, and brutality for strength. You are a disgrace to your people and their long history of forcing this country to live up to its lofty ideals. Furthermore, you are the most beautiful woman inside the Beltway. Come away with me to a desert island. We will make beautiful arguments together.”
The New York Times reports that the gunman, Othniel Askew, “was apparently a political rival” of Councilman Davis.
A quick Google search reveals that Askew’s full name was Othniel Boaz Askew, and that, yes, he was, at one time, registered to run against Davis later this year for the City Council seat from Brooklyn’s District 35. Apparently he dropped out, however; Google’s cached version of a Gotham Gazette article shows him on the candidate list, but the updated version does not.
The shooting took place in the balcony of the City Council chamber, which is on the second floor, about 2:08 p.m. as the council meeting was in progress, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a news conference. Mr. Davis and Mr. Askew, who entered City Hall together, were both in the balcony. The police officer fired from the council floor [and killed Mr. Askew] as council members dived beneath their desks. …
… Mr. Davis, 41, is a former New York City police officer who was a founder of Love Yourself, Stop the Violence, a community non-profit organization. The group’s Web site said Mr. Davis, a black man, joined the police force after being assaulted by two white police officers.
I was going to try and get flowers to place near City Hall as a memorial, but I figure even if I do find a flower shop, it would probably be closed by now, so I think I’ll head uptown now.
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All entrances to City Hall Park, which is normally open to the public (in fact, it is a free WiFi hot spot), are closed and guarded by police; no surprise there.
City Hall is right across the street from Pace University, which has a banner in front welcoming people to orientation. What a day for that. Anyway, here is a picture of more cops standing guard.