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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
Presidents v. The Supreme Court

The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention.  President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd.  Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.

Michael Miller


By Michael Miller
Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages

In early 1946, a brouhaha erupted between the AFL and the CIO, the state’s rival federations of labor groups. Republican leaders in the state legislature endorsed the upstate-oriented AFL’s proposal that New York license and regulate barbers and cosmetologists. The downstate-oriented CIO, which had members who couldn’t document the required formal education, launched opposition so fierce and threatened political retaliation so severe that the legislation was considered dead. And then, as the 1946 session was drawing to a close and the CIO was concentrating on other things, the “barber and hairdresser bills” started moving through both houses, with almost total Republican support and Democratic opposition. Member of Assembly Genesta Strong, first-termer from Nassau County, dependable, safe and already expected to step aside, was asked to be the official sponsor of the cosmetologist licensing bill.

Governor Dewey’s signing of the bill cemented support for his re-election from the powerful AFL, which had been the whole point. To those in political inner circles, Mrs. Strong had proved herself a reliable team player whose dignity was useful in deflecting potential attack.

Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
Sustainable LI: Getting Good Things Done

Farmingdale-based Sustainable Long Island is hosting its eighth annual Sustainability Conference on Friday, April 4, at Carlyle on the Green, at Bethpage State Park.

The event will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and traditionally draws hundreds of people from all walks of life: government, business and not-for-profits. This year’s theme is “Accomplishing More Together.” Tickets are $75 per person, which includes the cost of lunch.

Smoking Proposal Not A Cure

If 18, 19 and 20-year-old citizens are too immature to handle a cigarette, then they are too immature to handle the standard M4 carbine issued by the U.S. Army. Bring the kids back home.

In both the New York State legislature and the New York City Council, bills to ban sales of cigarettes to adults 18-20 years old look like they have legs, and now there’s a race with other states to put selective smoking prohibition laws on the books, maybe by the end of Spring. Some county legislators are probably readying their own press releases.

I don’t object to efforts to get people to stop smoking. Our culture has changed enough that the tobacco companies have written off the American market in the long run and are concentrating on China, Eastern Europe and other markets where intense marketing is already paying off big. We’re trained not to interfere with American corporations selling death overseas, whether it’s cigarettes or land mines or toxic chemicals that we don’t want used here.

Unfortunately, this particular proposal will do little to solve an important problem, and may make it harder to actually get some younger adults off cigarettes. I am also stunned at the nonchalance and hypocrisy with which some public officials seem to be willing to degrade the citizenship of others.

The cigarette ban is supported by some politicians who’ve strongly supported marriage equality, an issue that revolves around equal protection and status under the law. Suddenly they have no compunction to spitting all over the status of a minority that, as a group, has almost no political influence. Easy pickings.

There is no physiological difference between smoking at 20 or at 21, so why stop there? Political convenience.

In fact, 18-20 year olds smoke at a lower rate than most older adults, except seniors. Smoking tobacco ticks up with people about my age (President Obama was still sneaking smokes through his first year in the White House). Notice how politicians aren’t calling to take away privileges from men in their late 40s. We vote, we write checks, we control much of the political infrastructure. In short, we will eat you for breakfast and swallow the bones.

Once you get that Citizen Decoder Ring, you might have privileges restricted for breaking rules, but it should be one set of rules for everyone. That’s how we build good citizens and respect for law.

What makes people start or stop smoking can be a complex web of psychological, social and even political issues. There are regional differences in smoking rates and significant differences between racial, ethnic and age groups. Asian adults, even in their late teens, smoke at less than half the rate of other races, yet they’re getting lumped into prohibition. The thing that caused the single biggest drop in cigarette smoking in recent years was jacking up cigarette taxes.

Most people pick up smoking to relieve stress, which is now a national pandemic.

It doesn’t help that we’re all bombarded with advertising that makes it clear that stress, boredom, depression and all sorts of relationship problems can be solved through substance intake. Beer, liquor, prescription pills, caffeine-laced liquids, sugar, candy bars and more sugar.

Selective prohibition recreates the same punishment-based strategy that has failed so spectacularly in the “war” on some drugs. There isn’t even a health component in current proposals, as if physical addiction isn’t part of this. There are a billion “loosies” (single cigarettes) for sale around New York. Driving 18-20s underground will deprive them of supervision and socialization that can reduce or mitigate the worst behavior, like chain smoking.

We did this with alcohol, and college-age binge drinking is rampant. The payoff isn’t worth the price.