I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.- Thomas Jefferson.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Path to Perdition

from Casey's Daily Dispatch

In Orwell’s 1984, it was the job of the Thought Police to ferret out miscreants whose thinking and actions ran contrary to the dictates of the all-controlling state.

While things haven’t quite degraded to that point yet, even a casual glance at the news confirms that we’re well on the way. The first, from the Ventura County Star, is about a spilled can of water-based paint. Some relevant excerpts…

The incident started on an afternoon in late June when Steve Pettersen of No Regrets Painting upset a can of water-based paint inside his van, parked on a client’s driveway at Mandalay Bay.

Paint, once spilled, is harder to return to the can than worms. Nonetheless, Pettersen said, he was able to scoop up most of the contents of the toppled gallon and capture it in a container. A third-generation painter, he then sopped up the residue with rags, as he had learned to do through the process of getting his California contractor license.

Cleanups are messy affairs and a small quantity of the paint oozed onto the driveway. When it appeared the paint would stain his customer’s attractive and recently installed drive, he used the garden hose to rinse it off the pavement.

With the curb appeal restored, he went back into the house to complete the job.

A while later, he came outside to get something from his van and froze in his tracks.

Before his eyes were two firetrucks, each staffed by three firefighters, including paramedic and hazardous-materials specialists. There were two city of Oxnard code compliance officers. A Harbor Patrol vessel had been dispatched. A California Department of Fish and Game warden also responded. The scene was short only moon suits and a hovering helicopter.

In all, 13 public officials arrived on the scene.

…Because this neighborhood borders the harbor, anything in the storm drain goes directly into the sea. This is true anywhere in Southern California, but in this case it had to travel only 60 feet.

Responders discovered faint wisps of a whitish substance believed to be paint floating in the waterway nearby and proceeded to deploy a soft boom to keep the milky plumes from drifting into the main channel.

One problem: Since the paint was water-based, the boom could not soak it up.

After a few hours and much consultation, the decision was made to let nature take its course and to remove the boom when it was most likely that the tide would push the foreign substance out to sea, according to Oxnard Fire Battalion Chief Mike O’Malia, who responded to the incident.

In the end, she said, officials carried away the evidence against Pettersen in a Mason jar that held “a dollop of color in it.”

…The spill of aqua paint is going to put him in the red. He already has received a bill from the Oxnard Fire Department for $534. He also has been summoned to the Ventura County Hall of Justice to face charges he violated California Health and Safety Code. For that he faces up to $25,000 in penalties.

For small-businessman Steve Pettersen that is not exactly a drop in the bucket.

Full story here.

The second story, from the Grist.org, doesn’t involved spilled paint but raw milk…

When the 20 agents arrived bearing a search warrant at her Ventura County farmhouse door at 7 a.m. on a Wednesday a couple weeks back, Sharon Palmer didn't know what to say. This was the third time she was being raided in 18 months, and she had thought she was on her way to resolving the problem over labeling of her goat cheese that prompted the other two raids. (In addition to producing goat's milk, she raises cattle, pigs, and chickens, and makes the meat available via a CSA.)

But her 12-year-old daughter, Jasmine, wasn't the least bit tongue-tied. "She started back-talking to them," recalls Palmer. "She said, 'If you take my computer again, I can't do my homework.' This would be the third computer we will have lost. I still haven't gotten the computers back that they took in the previous two raids."

As part of a five-hour-plus search of her barn and home, the agents -- from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, Los Angeles County Sheriff, Ventura County Sheriff, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture -- took the replacement computer, along with milk she feeds her chickens and pigs.

While no one will say officially what the purpose of this latest raid was, aside from being part of an investigation in progress, what is very clear is that government raids of producers, distributors, and even consumers of nutritionally dense foods appear to be happening ever more frequently. Sometimes they are meant to counter raw dairy production, other times to challenge private food organizations over whether they should be licensed as food retailers.

The same day Sharon Palmer's farm was raided, there was a raid on Rawesome Foods, a Venice, Calif., private food club run by nutritionist and raw-food advocate Aajonus Vonderplanitz. For a membership fee of $25, consumers can purchase unpasteurized dairy products, eggs that are not only organic but unwashed, and a wide assortment of fermented vegetables and other products.

The main difference in the two raids seems to be that Palmer's raiding party was actually much smaller, about half the size of the Venice contingent: Vonderplanitz was also visited by the FBI and the FDA.

The questions I find myself asking are, “How does this stop? Where does it end?”

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