Friday, March 07, 2008


Minnesotans keep a spark in the smoking lamp

"Property rights" has become a concept as foreign to modern Americans as is lye soap. Don't believe me? Well, the following's transpired in recent years with nary a howl from the supposedly enlightened masses:

The Supreme Court ruled - see Kelo v. City of New London - that it was perfectly okay for municipal governments to seize private property and transfer it to another private entity.

Homeowners are required to follow - again, thank the Supreme Court - the fascistic dictats of homeowners' associations. Wanna display a flag, yard-art, or novelty mailbox? Better clear it with your local Association, lest you be accused of doing with your property what you see fit. (Or lest you be fined large sums of money until your property conforms to the )

Homeowners have had it bad as far as property rights are concerned, but their suffering, if you will, in no way compares to what businesses have had to endure for the past, oh, 75 years.

In many states, businesses can't hire and fire at will due to "closed shop" employment rules enacted by state legislators on the union take.

Government forces employers to pay a minimum wage, in some states several dollars above what the prevailing market dictates for certain jobs.

Businesses must wade through mountains of red tape for licenses and zoning variances, and in some cities must jump through hoop upon hoop just to construct an illuminated sign.

Over the past few years, I've paid particular attention to various governments' assaults on restaurants and bars. Indeed, as a self-styled gourmand and barfly, what's going on in the restaurant b'iness is something that interests me deeply. From placing bans on certain foodstuffs -- Chicago and foie gras, New York City and trans-fats -- to outlawing smoking, restaurants and bars are being forced to end practices that made 'em fun to go to in the first place.

As far as smoking bans are concerned, I am certainly responsible enough to decide on my own whether I want to patronize, or work in, an establishment that allows smoking. Each and every time I hear an anti-tobacco nut go on about being able to eat in a restaurant, or drink in a bar, "without having to smell cigarette smoke," I wanna grab 'em by the collar and shout, "There are plenty of places in which you can eat and imbibe that do not allow smoking. Find one. It's that ****in' simple!" Of course, what's simple - and sensible - is the last thing most folks consider in this day and age.

All that said, it always warms my cockles whenever I see a brave band of folks willing to poke a finger in the gov'ment's eye ... especially when the folks in question own a restaurant or bar. This story made its way into my e-mail box over the weeked, and it just tickles the you-know-what outta me each time I read it:

"All the world's a stage at some of Minnesota's bars. A new state ban on smoking in restaurants and other nightspots contains an exception for performers in theatrical productions. So some bars are getting around the ban by printing up playbills, encouraging customers to come in costume, and pronouncing them 'actors.'

"The customers are playing right along, merrily puffing away -- and sometimes speaking in funny accents and doing a little improvisation, too.

"About 30 bars in Minnesota have been exploiting the loophole by staging the faux theater productions and pronouncing cigarettes props."

Read the entire story here.

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