News item: Law requiring no-smoking sections in Arlington restaurants goes into effect. World does not come to an end.

There are many doomsayers around this national capital, but none sing the blues quite so mournfully (and quite so unnecessarily) as restaurant owners.

Pity us, kind lawmakers, they whine. We operate on a terribly tight profit margin. We can't afford to alienate a single hungry soul. So please, please don't require us to create no-smoking sections. We may scare away our smoking customers.

Restaurateurs never add that they may gain seven nonsmoking customers for every weed-puffer they lose. They never add that they may be violating health regulations by allowing smoking near food at all. And they never add that their fears always -- yes, always -- prove unfounded.

So it went in Arlington. First blues. Then law. Then bubbly one-month-later quotes in the newspaper from restaurateurs: "Working beautifully." "Working out as good as can be."

Yet still restaurateurs swamp other local legislatures with freedom-to-smoke arguments. Still they argue, falsely, that people won't buy a drink if they can't have a smoke with that drink.

Get off it, guys. The Arlington example proves once again that no-smoking sections are the wave of the future, because they're the wave of the present.

Not even in bottom-line terms does your position make sense. No-smoking sections do not cause economic disaster. They don't even produce more than a handful of complaints. Is the D.C. Council -- our most stubborn holdout on this issue -- listening?

News item: American business spends $60 million a year on shredders. Figure expected to increase sharply in light of Oliver North testimony.

Shredders may be great if you're in the business of illegal weapons sales, like the world's most famous lieutenant colonel. But why should a toy company or pretzel manufacturer buy a shredder?

It doesn't seem to matter that these businesses have done without shredders all this time. It doesn't seem to matter that they have grown, diversified, made money. Suddenly, trendiness seizes boardrooms, and a shredder becomes the only defense against industrial spying, and against lawyers who might subpoena records.

Shreddermania reminds me of a friend who rushed out and bought a personal computer during the first year that PCs were "hot." I asked the friend why she had done it.

"I may need to do the family budget," she replied.

I didn't bother to ask her how many times she needs to do the family budget. Nor did I ask why she couldn't do that budget on a piece of paper, as humans have been doing since they lived in caves.

Similarly, I suppose one shouldn't bother to ask companies why they sink big bread into shredders. It's their privilege, some would say. No such thing as too much protection, others would add.

I just can't help thinking that shredder-buyers are flattering themselves.

If their ideas are so good, and so stealable, why don't the companies put those ideas into practice, rather than chucking them into the great grinding jaws of some machine?

And if these companies are so afraid of lawsuits, they should hire more lawyers, rather than buying ways to destroy evidence. Won't shredding evidence produce larger legal tangles, not smaller? Didn't the world's most famous lieutenant colonel just prove exactly that?

News item: Police in Ellicott City, Md., arrest a man riding a horse and charge him with driving while intoxicated.

Don't rush to the phone to tell me that the Maryland drunken driving law specifies "motor vehicle." And don't point out that no prosecutor on earth would touch this charge. I know all that. I also know that my hat is off to the arresting officer. Best giggle I've had in ages.

Don't think for a minute that the Hiccuping Horseman will go free. The arresting officer also nailed him for disorderly conduct, fleeing and eluding a police officer and disorderly intoxication. Prosecutors will be happy to touch any or all of those charges, you may be sure.

But that's just what's wrong with this little tale, giggle or no.

Here we have a police officer who happened to be on the scene when a tipsy person on horseback gave him some lip and tried to ride away. Understandably, the officer had never been through anything like this before. He didn't know exactly how to handle it. Probably his supervisor didn't, either. So the police played The Scattershot Game -- charging the rider with everything they could think of in hopes that one of the many charges would stick.

Why can't the police take a few minutes to discuss cases like this with a prosecutor first? That way, they will charge offenders more fairly, and with more legal accuracy. We will lose a few giggles, but our accused will stop feeling like clay pigeons.