Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Butt Out!

Official Press Photographs from websites of Senators Feinstein and Bennett

A few days ago, I questioned the DC Council's abruptly allowing all-night drinking during inauguration week without adequately considering the public safety implications for neighborhoods. Well, this week, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Bill Bennett (R-Utah) weighed in, sending a letter to Mayor Fenty and Council Chair Vincent Gray urging them to reverse course. The action signals that Congress might not permit the law to take effect. I agree with them, but stay out of our business!

To the respected senators, in DC, as in the states you represent, we're allowed to enact dumb or simply unwise laws without your involvement. According to several internet sources (Disclaimer: I have not taken the time to verify these laws), in Senator Feinstein's hometown of San Francisco, just for example:
  • Elephants may not stroll down Market Street unless they are on a leash.
  • It is illegal to wipe one’s car with used underwear.
  • Persons classified as “ugly” may not walk down any street.
  • One may not pile horse manure more than six feet high on a street corner.
Headline: DC Mayor Urges San Francisco to Free Elephants, Reduce Health Hazard of High Horse Manure, Eliminate Requirement of Using New Underwear to Clean Car; Mary Cheh Introduces Legislation.

It doesn't get any better in Utah. In Senator Bennett's hometown of Salt Lake City, no one may walk down the street carrying a paper bag containing a violin. Sounds like an ABC single sales restriction targeting drunk musicians. Utah has a whole mess of ridiculous laws. Its restrictive alcoholic beverage regulations are not exactly mainstream. In fact, during the 2002 Winter Olympics, Utah relaxed its alcoholic beverage law enforcement, and when no catastrophe occurred, it adopted a new set of regulations that moved toward normalcy in 2003.

Utah is a place that until recently limited drinks to no more than an ounce of alcohol. Bars got around the rule by offering “sidecars,” an extra half ounce served separately that the customer could pour into the drink himself. Restaurants got mad, since they had to serve weak drinks. So now, you can get a drink with an ounce and a half of alcohol in Utah, and sidecars are prohibited, unless, of course, you would like a side shot of a different type of alcohol with your drink. In order words, you can order a vodka tonic and a shot of tequila, but don’t try ordering a vodka tonic with a shot of vodka for your friend. Huh? Most Utah ABC licensees are located in Senator Bennett's hometown. Did he raise a stink when they relaxed restrictions during the Olympics, is he urging reform of his own state’s oddball ABC laws, or does he only butt into DC's business?

Perhaps DC Council action is in order: "The Bringing Rationality to Utah’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Laws Emergency Resolution of 2008."


tom veil said...

For future reference, any time you see a "dumb laws" list that doesn't contain citations to any statutes, codes, or ordinances, you can be 90% certain that it's made up.

Cary Silverman said...

Thanks, Tom. I agree, hence the disclaim. However, since you put me up to the challenge, I wasted 5 minutes of my day looking one of these up. Here it is for your viewing pleasure from the City and County of San Fran Health Code, proving not all of these are urban legends:

(a) Materials and Cleaning Thereof. It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to sell or offer for sale, soiled clothes or rags, or soiled or disused or cast-off underclothing, garments, bedding, bedclothes or parts thereof for use as wiping rags unless the same have been cleansed and sterilized by a process of boiling continuously for a period of 40 minutes in a solution containing at least five percent of caustic soda....
(b) Definition. Wiping rags within the meaning of this Section are cloths and rags used for wiping and cleaning the surfaces of machinery, machines, tools, locomotives, engines, motorcars, automobiles, cars, carriages, windows, furniture and surfaces of articles, in factories, shops, steamships and steamboats, and generally in industrial employments; and also used by mechanics and workmen for wiping from their hands and bodies soil incident to their employment....