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September 11, 2007

Representin’: Bans, bans, everywhere are bans

The council decides what’s good for you. Trans fats and plastic bags are next. OK? At some point in the middle of the night last Thursday, in a fit of unrest probably initiated by the pool of $5.50-stadium beer that had collected in my stomach following a vain attempt to ignore a near-thrashing of the football Cards by the would-be hacks of Middle Tennessee State, I clicked on the TV and rummaged through channels for something that didn’t have to do with skin cream, kitchen gear or Wolf Blitzer.I settled on Metro TV, the publicly funded shill for Metro government and an old fallback for the insomnia set, which was showing a rerun of last Wednesday’s health and human services committee meeting. There, Dr. Walter Sobczyk, a pediatrics professor at the University of Louisville, told the group — with professional conviction — that it should ban dangerous trans fats from restaurants in the city. The Doc made a convincing argument: Humans have not evolved to correctly process all the weird, manufactured bullshit that’s in mass-produced chain food, like McDonald’s fries. Trans fats — the sum of a hydrogen-vegetable oil mixture that helps food keep longer on the shelf, ensuring that even those months-old fries will stay solvent — are exemplary of this degraded situation. They have been proven to lead to heart disease and diabetes, as well as sweaty guts that threaten elastic everywhere.The basic message is solid: Trans fats are a threat to our health and they shouldn’t be in our city. Cheapness and the ability to keep pseudo-food longer shouldn’t win out over public health. Fair enough. Then the Doc told the committee this: “People don’t eat them out of choice, or because they like them. They eat trans fats because they are in the food they do like. What role can this committee play? A very important role.” Suddenly I had a vision of a leg-humping centaur with the body of a pit bull and broad stripper tits — neatly covered with pasties — smoking a cigarette and giving Doug Hawkins (R-25) a lap dance. A lineup of council members appeared to be chiding and wagging fingers at the beast from considerable distance, although no sound was emanating from their mouths. Nearby a bartender was pouring whiskey from a golden chalice with the words “Res Ipsa Loquitur” etched into the side; it seemed to never run low. Christ, what time was it? Had I lost consciousness watching Metro TV again? My respite from reality was brief and, ultimately, in vain. The party, as it were, is still over. The Louisville Metro Council is pretty sure it knows what’s good for you, and because of that fact, is banning things that aren’t. In the past couple years, this body — which has remained basically intact — has banned nudity in strip joints that serve alcohol, smoking inside any building except Churchill Downs and your house, and imposed what is essentially a tax on certain types of dogs thought to be more aggressive than your average schnoodle. It is contemplating a ban on trans fats, and later this year will take up Councilman Jim King’s (D-10) idea to ban plastic bags in retail stores, following lots of other countries and San Francisco, Oakland and Baltimore — which is considering a strict bag ban — in the quest to dodge post-consumer waste. All this is very progressive in a political sense, and it will inevitably reinvigorate debate over the preternatural bore: “How far should government go?” Don’t waste time with this question — the council has shown you exactly where it’s going. It believes, as a body, that government should intervene between the “free market” and the citizenry on matters of public health. If you disagree, vote against council members who vote this way. Otherwise, you’ve given your tacit approval; stop bitching about the smoking ban interfering with your rights, or how a plastic bag ban will make life hard for “business.” This council is determined to save you from yourself, which should palliate the laziest among us, which is also, coincidentally, the most affecting voting block: non-voters. Like the Doc said, you don’t want to eat trans fats — you just want to eat processed crap from the 99-cent menu that needs help being preserved on the shelf. This council is trying to give it to you both ways. Contact the writer at sgeorge@leoweekly.com