Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nanny Government

Think back to when you were a kid. I'm sure we all heard some variation of "Eat your vegetables" or "no dessert until you finish your dinner". Well, let's magnify that onto a huge scale, and you can begin to understand some of what local governments are doing to their constituents. More and more across the country, state and local municipalities are involving themselves into the most mundane aspects of every day life. And the saddest part is that the "real" problems are being left unaddressed.

As was the case on July 22nd, 2008. The city council for Los Angeles put a moratorium on the building of new fast food restaurants within a 32 square mile area of the city. An area that encompasses mostly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods. The one year restriction is on restaurants such as McDonald's, Taco Bell, and an L.A. staple, Jack in the Box. (Hell yeah, Hell yeah. Inside joke, see Menace II Society). Lawmakers also reserved the option of renewing the plan in two six month extensions.

Now on the surface, it may seem as though the L.A. city council is doing a good thing to protect the great citizens of their fair city. However, with anything, there is what's called "the law of unintended consequences". The main one, to me, being the loss of numerous potential jobs. And where would those jobs have been? In those very same Black and Hispanic communities. Interestingly enough, Blacks and Hispanics seem to be the ones needing jobs the most in this struggling economy. That's just one aspect of what this ban does for the city of Los Angeles.

Almost at the very same time Los Angeles was dictating to business what they could do, Arnold "the Governator" Schwarzenegger, ignored his state's pressing 16 billion dollar budget shortfall, and instead signed into law legislation that made the state of California the first in the nation to completely ban trans fatty acids. Yes, cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Seattle have taken steps to ban the ingredient, but California has taken it to a whole new level. (Quick side note, can't you see hustle man coming into the barber shop, "yo yo yo, I got them pork rinds ya'll. And they got all the fat in them. I got these off a truck from Vegas. Just two dollas a bag. 3 for 5 though!").

Again, I will make allowances for those of you who at first glance believe that what, in this case, the California legislature is doing is a good thing for its citizens. But see, here's the problem I have with it: at what point do we as Americans stand up and say to our government "I can control what I eat, get these goddamn roads fixed"? Or "My fries taste just fine as they are, go spend time trying to legislate a way to fix our schools". (For an idea, read the Mis-Education of America posted on July 17th. I had to give myself a plug). Too often we've seen kids that are overweight. And while you feel for them, sometimes you lay eyes on the parents, and then you understand why the kids look the way that they do. Now, I think its awful when you see a 9 year old that looks like he could be making tackles on Sundays for the Chicago Bears, but why should I be deprived simply because his mother doesn't have the backbone to stand up to her 9 year old and say "no, you can't have 2 happy meals". Or, "get yo ass out my house and go play".

I was 9 once. And if I could've, I'd have packed up all my little belongings, and made any local McDonald's my new permanent residence. Its family lore that when I was a kid, I could see the McDonald's arches long before the adults in the car did. They would be looking around, and still didn't know where McDonald's was. I did! So I don't speak to you as someone who's unfamiliar with an addiction to hamburgers. They're my favorite food. But the reason I didn't move to what would have been my "Happiest Place on Earth" was because my parents were parents! Sure, we got an occasional reward of a trip to McDonald's, usually provided by my Grandmother after church on Sundays. (Another quick side note, it must've been hard for my Grandfather John to cart around my Grandmother and 4-6 of his screaming and clowning grandkids. I'm slowly but surely beginning to understand why he drank). However, I also recall eating some of what I then considered to be the grossest things put on planet earth:

Liver! Still can't touch the stuff. If I smell it, I'm 7 years old again, sitting at my Grandfather Porter's table trying to find a way to rationalize either eating this crap, or just taking my whooping and being allowed to go to bed. Nobody told me that you get both!

Okra. I was introduced to this little nugget in a gumbo prepared by my Granny Alverta. Everything else in the gumbo was great. Couldn't get with the okra. So as any intelligent child would do, I ate everything but the okra. Well, Grandfather Porter would have none of that. I believe that turned into another one of those all nighters that ended with me falling asleep at the table, and my grandparents being none too happy with me. Still can't roll with Okra to this day though.

Brussel Sprouts. Now kids of today have it easy. They get all of their vegetables served to them with cheese, ranch, and all kinds of nice toppings. Well that didn't happen back in the day. You got straight raw or cooked vegetables. That's what happened when it came to brussel sprouts. And if I remember correctly, the only salt that existed when it came to my sprouts was the salt on my face at the fact that I had to eat them. Me and sprouts are cool now, but we had beef like Shaq and Kobe when I was a child.

Now I share that with you to show that its the parents who should be deciding what the children eat. Not the kids, or some commercial, and definitely not the government. But I can tell you right now, of all the times that I wanted McDonald's as a kid, I probably got it 10% of the time at best. And that's because my parents knew that stuff was ok in moderation, but there was no need for it as a primary source of nourishment.

Some people will say that what they're doing in L.A. is protecting its citizens from evil corporations that prey on the down trodden with their 99 cent double cheeseburgers. Well, that's a load of crap. I have lived in Los Angeles for half my life, and I can tell you that I have pretty much been to every single neighborhood that there is. And there is no shortage of fast food restaurants in any of them. Period! South Central, got em. Bel-Air, got em. The beaches, got em. There's no conspiracy on the part of McDonald's or Burger King to subjugate the minorities of the city to their will. All they're trying to do is make money. And as I have stated in previous blogs, I believe in capitalism 100%. As long as McDonald's is providing me a service that I decide is worth my money, its not their responsibility what happens to me down the line. Now I do go into this believing that they're not intentionally serving me tainted meat and things like that, But its not their responsibility to hand out an angioplasty with every super value meal.

I hope some of you aren't just thinking that this is unique to California. Trust me, California is just the testing ground for some of the more wacky ideas. But they usually make their way across the nation. So here's some of California's "finest" ideas.


Pet "Guardians" instead of pet owners

Hand Held cell-phone ban

The last one was especially difficult for me to understand. Now if using a cell phone is so dangerous, why, when the bill was passed in 2006, did you push the implementation of the ban forward until July 1st, 2008? I mean if the road is so dangerous with those cell phone using drivers, why have another two years with those dangerous individuals on the road? Did you arrest Charles Manson in 1969, and then tell him "ok Chuck, in 1971, we're gonna come pick you up to serve your sentence. You're a dangerous individual, and as of 1971, we can no longer tolerate you in our society". Hell No! They decided that the man was so dangerous that he had to be taken into custody immediately. I know its an extreme comparison, but similarly, if driving while using a cell phone is so dangerous, why not eliminate its existence from our society immediately?

Now let's make the natural progression from childhood to adulthood. Once I was old enough to decide what I wanted to eat, I took full advantage of it. I would have, what I termed "the breakfast of champions". I know that Wheaties pioneered the slogan, but Michael Jordan never dreamed that it could apply to what I would eat! Morning burgers, a can of chili, or 8 oatmeal raisin cookies, and a couple pepsis. (Not all of that at one time, damn, I do have some self control). And after almost 10 years of eating meals such as that, needless to say, I put on quite a bit of weight. Now unlike the losers who find sheisty attorneys and file 100 million dollar lawsuits against McDonald's, Hormel, Mother's cookies, and Pepsi bottling, I decided that I needed to change my diet. Simple solution! Less hamburgers. (Can't give them up completely, I do believe they have worked themselves into my DNA). 1 or 2 cookies instead of 8. Juice or water instead of Pepsis. And its made a noticeable difference. I've lost 20+ pounds in the matter of just 4 months. Now I can't say if I have completely reversed those 10 years of gorging or not, but I can say that I've taken responsibility for myself. And going forward, its up to me what my diet will be. No government will ever dictate that to me.



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