Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Legal Round-Up!

So it's been a new year for almost a week, but I've been in the frigid northlands since the 23rd which basically means that I'm incommunicado because one of my family's computers has like forty-five viruses (that I could find), and the other is a five-year-old Mac. Argh.

Anyway, we've got a bevy of new laws going into effect, so I thought I'd take some time to go over a few of them. In completely arbitrary order:

Three States Forward: ...and one state back. New Hampshire and DC joined Vermont and Iowa in legalizing gay marriage, bringing the total to five states. Maine backed out like California in a November referendum (Iowa is poised to do the same, if things don't go well), Massachusetts and Connecticut are still going strong.

Drive-by Communications: Wisconsin, Illinois, Oregon, Colorado, and Texas banned texting while driving, bringing the total number to 28 states to pass such measures. You also can't use cell phones at all if you're in a school zone (hands-free devices are still allowed). In the sensible traffic laws department, Wisconsinanians are now allowed to pass on the shoulder and make U-turns when the Moon is in the second house and Jupiter aligns with Mars.

Eat Right, Or Else: Raise your hand if you know why trans fats are bad for you. OK, if your hand is in the air, you can scroll past this. If not, then you should read up: our enzymes suck at breaking down trans fats, and they're accordingly more likely to accumulate in your bloodstream and clog your tubes. So California banned them.

Oregon Recognizes Religion as Disability: Well, sort of. Oregon passed a law that "redefines 'reasonable accommodation' to be more in line with the ADA." Consider the definition of delusional disorder:
Delusional disorder is characterized by the presence of recurrent, persistent non-bizarre delusions.

Delusions are irrational beliefs, held with a high level of conviction, that are highly resistant to change even when the delusional person is exposed to forms of proof that contradict the belief... Typically, while delusional disorder sufferers may be distressed about the delusional "reality," they may not have the insight to see that anything is wrong with the way they are thinking or functioning. Regarding the earlier example, those suffering delusion might state that the only thing wrong or upsetting in their lives is that the government is spying, and if the surveillance would cease, so would the problems. Similarly, the people suffering the disorder attribute any obstacles or problems in functioning to the delusional reality, separating it from their internal control. Furthermore, whether unable to get a good job or maintain a romantic relationship, the difficulties would be blamed on "government interference" rather than on their own failures or omissions. Unless the form of the delusions causes illegal behavior, somehow affects an ability to work, or otherwise deal with daily activities, the delusional disorder sufferer may adapt well enough to navigate life without coming to clinical attention.
Die In a Fire of Cancer: Florida, Michigan, and Arkansas joined nine other states in requiring cigarettes to turn off when not in use. North Carolina and Virginia joined 28 other states in passing some manner of smoking ban, refusing to let restaurant owners (or bars in 25 states) decide for themselves whether they'll be smoking or non-smoking. Oh, and you can't smoke with someone under 16 in your car if you live in New Brunswick.

Fun fact: the EPA's infamous December '92 study linking secondhand smoke to lung cancer was shot down in July '98 in a 92-page Federal trial for basically being a piece of shit (less-than-92-page rundown here). The short version is that secondhand smoke is gross to some people, which is a reason to allow business owners to forbid it on their property, but it is ultimately no more harmful than seeing boys smooch each other - though it's really gross to some people!

There are over 40,000 laws going into effect, and I'm not even going to bother summarizing them all (especially the silly ones, like Texas teens being unable to go to tanning salons without parental consent). But if you, Alert Reader, can come up with some more interesting ones that are either new or changing as of 01/01/2010, I'll be happy to add them in with credit!


Steve Bowen said...

I guess you're a smoker then? :)Actually as my partner and I have a pub I would happily see the smoking ban currently in force in England revoked as it has damaged trade no end (though on a personal level as an ex-smoker I welcome the fresh air).
Not sure the tanning salon thing is that silly

D said...

I'm actually an ex-smoker, too. I just hate people who think that their taste means that they can tell other people what to do, and then try to justify their taste by lying.

I think the tanning salon thing is silly because who needs a tanning bed when you can just go outside? And if people want to be idiots, then I say let 'em - I also think that we could solve our overpopulation and stupidity problems at one stroke by removing all safety labels. But maybe that's just me.

Steve Bowen said...

You know I kind of agree with you about the idiots except when those idiots are teenagers, 'cos by both our definitions we would all be dead by 18.

D said...

Sometimes I think we should just start selecting ourselves for intelligence. But that will never happen.