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Adieu, Foie Gras With A Giant Pepsi:

Santa Monica residents who hang on to interesting ‘foodie’ stories will likely remember when a restaurant near our airport was busted for selling whale sushi, with the restaurant closing its doors in March of 2011.

I think we were all on-board with that one, especially those of us that try to look out for the safety of whales. And I don’t think you have to be vegan to agree with a new California law beginning July 1 that will stop the making, cooking and selling of super-fatty goose and duck liver. And yet…

I’m wondering if the foie gras ban will somehow be deployed and pilloried by those who tend to bark out loud about “big government.”

With so many things needing attention these days, you have the state jumping in and saying, “Force-feeding ducks just so you can enjoy something tasty is wrong.” However images of gavage, the practice of forcing grain down the throat of a goose or duck until its liver is grossly enlarged, probably deliver a bigger emotional wallop at this point than that video loop of chubby human torsos waddling down the street… the loop that plays whenever it’s time to start talking about “national obesity” again. Which is why we saw those jiggle-belly shots again recently during reports that the Mayor of New York wanted to ban the sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces, a first-in-the-nation move that could take effect as soon as next March.

Both of these actions highlight a special space that government can sometimes occupy, which we might call the “Big Daddy” space or maybe the “Come on, you know it’s bad for you so we’re helping you stop it” space. There’s arguably been an uptick in this sort of intervention since the Feds successfully came down on Big Tobacco. Of course you need to remember that with cigarettes, those dudes lied. They lied about addiction; they denied that cigarettes were a nicotine delivery system. They wanted us to go back to the good old days where smoking was more like chewing gum, not a national health problem killing 440,000 citizens a year according to 2010 CDC figures.

Do we want government to act like a big set of Super Parents? I think the answer becomes “yes” because we lack other effective means of modifying wrong and even toxic behaviors. True, compelling documentary films can change your mind about such things as the health risks of the food at McDonald’s (“Super-Size Me”) or tolerance for rape and sexual abuse in the military (“The Invisible War”). But consider how obvious it is that one should not drive a car and text on their phone at the same time… and yet by my lights California’s law against that has barely impacted the behavior.

It’s jolly fun to rant against “big government” but… would the people that do that ranting repeal DUI laws? It’s a fair place to start the argument because DUI and drunken driving legislation doesn’t take away the freedom to be drunk. It only punishes you for operating a motor vehicle when you are drunk. And regardless of how punitive those laws become, they will never bring back the dead slaughtered by drunk drivers.

Let’s take another look at that cigarette deal. After we got the tobacco companies to pay hundreds of billions over 25 years to atone for what they’ve done, have we stopped smoking? One key area that involves many in our own city and greater LA is smoking in films and television. Has there been a reduction in the representation of smoking in entertainments? No. The official line on what’s changed is that now you only show conflicted or bad people smoking as a means of revealing their character. Or maybe Mom gave up cigarettes but the alien invasion drove her back to them and that’s okay because alien invasions are stressful. In terms of films and media, we’re back to the chewing gum attitude cited earlier. Years after the big tobacco settlement by “big government,” the job of not smoking or not finding cigarettes attractive and sexy is still up to you. And your kids.

That seems to contradict any notion that government somehow gets too big when it attempts to modify toxic behaviors. Unless those who rant against “big government” don’t really mean bigger government but rather no government involvement whatsoever.

Why would anyone logically argue against health care reform? Perhaps for the same reasons they would argue that we don’t need an Environmental Protection Agency. In a super PAC ad that runs with regularity on news channels to promote use of coal, the EPA is referred to as “their” EPA… meaning the Obama administration. Of course it’s “our” EPA, meant to keep corporations from so plundering the planet that we all die in a global environmental disaster. But, see, the EPA is “big government.” And now it’s “their” big government.

“More government” and “big government” will be tossed at us like flapjacks at a church pancake supper in the months from now to November. Maybe at one point those barking will invoke such things as ending the production of foie gras. But being allowed to gorge on fatty liver pate isn’t what they’re after. They want to be able to stuff themselves on everything in the store.

in Opinion
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