Month: November 2010

Happy Meals And Garage Doors

Legalize all drugs.

There, I said it.

I’ve wanted to say that for a long time.

We’ve been fighting drugs for, well, seems like forever.  We haven’t won.

We have various forms of incidental crime related to illegal drugs.  Of course those who CHOOSE to use these dangerous drugs face a variety of ill effects on their health and life.

I’d be willing to bet, however,  that more people get personally tripped up by abusing a LEGAL drug like alcohol.  Maybe we should try making alcohol illegal, too and save all those alcohol abusers.  Oh, wait, yeah, Prohibition….

I’m not going to vent today about legalizing drugs, though I think we should do so (we’ve had NyQuil for years now, what’s a little cocaine?).  My overall gripe today is with the government protecting us from ourselves.  It tries to protect us from what it perceives as the evils we might willfully or accidentally cause to rain down upon our poor selves.

I frequently hear about laws that irk me but one that recently passed in California really got my goat (fortunately for me, I didn’t have a goat to begin with).

Even though the headline, San Francisco bans Happy Meals, in the November 2, 2010 edition of the  Los Angeles Times, is not entirely accurate, the truth is that San Francisco has made a law to change the way we eat.

In summary the law says that if a restaurant wants to give away a toy with a meal, it must adhere to certain food content rules.  For example, if the meal doesn’t include fruit, then ankle-biters in that town won’t get some cross-promoted movie-based action figure to lose between the seats of the minivan.

The city council in San Francisco states that they want to improve the health of kids; keep them from becoming obese.  That’s probably not a bad goal.  But is it a problem government should try to fix? Isn’t it the job of parents to not fatten their children so that they become mistaken for some holiday bird, sans feathers?  I know that’s a big leap of logic.  Especially considering that I observe most parents yacking on their phones whilst their short people cavort in piles of razor blades.

Having a toy with a meal that isn’t primarily twigs and berries is not going to be some magic bullet against obesity.  I don’t believe even one child will be steered away from obesity because of this new law.

In a free society I think it is required that the citizens take responsibility for themselves and their actions.  If you stick your hand under a running lawn mower to clear wet grass and you lose a digit or five, that is entirely your fault.  Not the fault of the people who made the machine.  Not the fault of the government.  Not the fault of Bubba at the hardware store.  Not the fault of your dog.  Your fault.  And because you did something stupid does not mean we need a law requiring blade-stop devices on all lawnmowers.

I’ve often wondered how much that law has cost us.  Anyone who purchased a mower since the law went into effect had to pay extra to protect the masses.  And the country has lost the great convenience of being able to stop pushing the mower, go move a rock out of the way, and immediately come back to mowing.  Now I’m more likely to take my chances over the rock, perhaps busting out neighbor McCrotchet’s window in the process.  I’m more worried that I won’t be able to re-start the machine after the anti-finger-amputation-safety-device has killed the engine.

And of course there’s the example, also from the Golden Arches, of the hot coffee that burned a woman when it spilled on her.  Perhaps the lasting impact of this one is more trivial, but I sometimes chuckle, sometimes roll my eyes, when I see the warning “CONTENTS MAY BE HOT” on disposable beverage-ware.   But it’s rather sickening that such an episode took place, that courts, and judges and law firms allowed and encouraged it.  Now you can’t put out a beverage cup without warnings.   How far are we from a warning like “CONTENTS MAY BE YUMMY”, lest some errant consumer suffer a heart attack  due to immense palette pleasure.

This morning my wife and I were backing out of the garage, on our way to get groceries.  We waited in the driveway several seconds to make sure the bright sun didn’t fool the infrared safety sensors, causing the door to re-open.  This got me all peeved and annoyed anew.

Decades ago in my time upon this planet, I had a new house and new garage door opener.  This was before the government decided that it was a bad thing for children and other small animals to be severed by rogue garage doors…and thus made laws to make them safe for stupid people.  Back then I could start the door on its dance of opening or closing and press the button again, causing the door to stop in its tracks (that was a pun).

That made it nice to leave the door open a little bit for light or ventiliation, without having the door completely open for neighbors to see what debauchery was underway in my garage.

But now I don’t have the luxury of stopping the garage door partway.  Nor can I assume the door will close when I tell it to because the sun may be telling that safety beam that some rugrat is napping in the path of my garage guillotine.  And 37.9% of the time I have to go stand like a dork to block the sun so that I can get the door to close.

But this childless family has been so thoroughly and graciously protected by their government.  We can walk to and fro freely, without fear of being sliced into new shapes by the Genie overhead.

It just seems so totally absurd to me, yet it continues.  And the Happy Meal law is just the most amazing joke…but I’m not laughing.

In this wreckless writer’s view, if you do something dumb and stupid and something bad happens to you as a result, that’s unfortunate.  It’s sad.  I might cringe at the news, feel sorry for you or shed a tear.  But that doesn’t mean the government should step in and make a law to prevent it from ever happening again.  People will hurt themselves.  It happens.  Life is dangerous.

I can spend my entire life being protected from the evil Happy Meal only to die at the hand astronomic debris falling from the sky.  Either way I’m messed up.

So my dear government, of the people, by the people and for the people, pull back the reigns.  “Govern” less.  Do as little as possible.  Perhaps all government should follow the motto of physicians and “First, do no harm….”

Where did I put my C3PO toy…?