Because “Warnings are Ineffective”

If you’re not familiar with ’em, Buckyballs are magnetized BBs packaged with instructions and shape-making challenges. They’re weirdly hypnotic, s0 we leave ours on the bar to see who makes what during idle chatter ’round the kitchen; they’re a hit with friends and guests. This week the Federal government issued a stop-sale order for Buckyballs ’cause too many parents fail to pay attention to what their kids put in their mouths and too few know the difference between kiddie toys and adult brain teasers.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) called Buckyballs a serious “ingestion hazard” and convinced 10 retailers, including Amazon.com, to stop selling them (the manufacturer has refused to voluntarily withdraw the product from the market). I say, kudos to manufacturer Maxfield & Oberton: idiot parenting’s the real hazard here. Yet we’re left with a panel of stiffs in Washington again protecting us from ourselves.

Why have Americans been surrendering their sense of personal responsibility at such a disturbing rate? Soon we’ll all end up a bunch of trained seals with our heads tilted back, lolling from side to side and waitin’ for someone to drop a fish into our mouths.

In an AP interview, Betty Lopez said her daughter used a schoolmate’s Buckyballs to mimic tongue piercings by positioning the magnets atop and under her tongue. According to Lopez, the daughter was twisting her tongue with the balls in her mouth when she accidentally swallowed ’em. Lopez rushed her daughter to an urgent care center, where X-rays showed she’d swallowed four magnets. She had emergency surgery and spent six days in the hospital. “It’s extremely frightening,” Lopez said. “She could have died.”

No Betty,  you pinecone. You’re what’s frightening. You might as well’ve given your daughter a steak knife with which to pry out the magnets. How ’bout discussing age-appropriate body modifications? Did that ever cross your mind?

If you’re a fan of this Mommy-winner’s blog, you were either too busy Tweeting to notice or you think seven-year-olds mimicking piercings are cute and creative. Whether the kid was indeed being clever with her sugar-based imitation, you can bet the combo of mom’s inattention and obvious admiration for trendy crap isn’t gonna bode too well. (The comments her post received are about what you’d expect — from Toddlers and Tiaras watchers.) While camouflaging the entry as a question of how young is too young for body piercing, Mommy 2 manages to do little more than parade her own self-absorption.

She also represents an asinine parental expectation that lawmakers should do the parenting for them – and help litigate when things don’t work out. Disagree? She’s offhanded and flippant about her inattention to her daughter, but now that the Feds have stepped in, if that daughter ever chokes on Buckyballs as a result of her inattention she’ll expect to sue their manufacturer and any number of retailers who may defy the order – possibly even retroactively. What might such escalation require? Probably only a class-action hit-team.

"Warnings can blow me!" declares Uncle Sam!

Why not? The government just made it feasible with the CPSC’s contention that the product’s “warnings are ineffective because the magnets are not typically put back into their packaging once they’re removed.” Wait, you mean the big  **KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN** label is worth a legal liability turd? Ostensibly so.

Well, enough pickin’ on future Darwin Award recipients and self-absorbed dumbbell parents who are failing to prepare their dimwitted children for life, because this middle finger to common sense brings us to the bigger issue at hand, which is where this paternalistic public policy is taking us:

Utah’s Senate recently voted 24-3 to approve widening the state’s Indoor Clean Air Act to include smokeless, tobacco-free “e-cigarettes.” Why? ‘Cause they look like cigarettes? Because they promote the idea of smoking? Then shouldn’t Utah classify them as a thought crime? How ’bout asthma inhalers or nicotine gum?

Elsewhere, restricting sodas to 16-ounces is just as preposterous: 16+16=32, cabbage-heads! And hello? Aren’t consumers charged more for two 16-ounce drinks than for one 32-ouncer? But go ahead and double the beverage industry’s profits. While we’re busy arguing over portion size, its powerful lobby can pursue more legislative influence. Talk about suckers!

Perhaps most catastrophically, America’s failure to incarcerate it’s way out of recidivism is an additional, if comparatively immense, example. But it’s no less applicable for taxpayers stuck with the bill: according to both DrugWarFacts.org and Fareed Zakaria’s Incarceration Nation, the $1 trillion War on Drugs failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption and has created a vast prisoner under­class. In 2009, 4 out of 5 (of the 1.66 million) Americans arrested on drug charges were arrested only for possession. As a result, in 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons vs. $5.7 billion on the UC system and state colleges. Since 1980, California has built one college campus and 21 prisons. A college student costs the state $8,667 per year; a prisoner costs it $45,006 a year.

For years I’ve been joking about flexible LED illumination panel technology, television screens that can (and will) be stitched into the fabric of jackets worn by professional wanderers paid to walk around with a digi-video loop of advertisements. Being right around the corner, it’s anything but science fiction. So what regulatory body will be created to protect us from Royal Caribbean ads in churches and chemotherapy sessions? How much money, I wonder, will taxpayers spend on creating and enforcing more laws? The question of electronic overload comes to mind, but as I tap these keys my head is spinning enough already.

Maybe I should go back to mocking lazy, imbecile parents who made purchasing a brick of Buckyballs harder for the rest of us.

Schmucks.

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