Sunny Side Up(date)

Ventured into the newsroom this morning.   Already in a ‘mood’ so what’s a little more irritation and angst?

Read the latest regarding food poisoning allegations and egg recalls.

Seems FDA Chief Margaret Hamburg needs more ‘power’ in order to do her job properly.   She’d also like to have greater authority over imported foods.

Funny, the tainted eggs came from farms in Iowa.  When did they become defined as foreign imports?

She is, however, taking the ‘egg problem’ very seriously.  Apparently laws that allow the shutdown of lemonade stands and small dairy farms (read here, and here, and oh, lookee, here’s another….) have failed miserably when it comes to keeping big corporations on the straight and narrow.  She simply must have more authority in her fight against evil egg producers.

She calls for more enforcement and preventative power.  Oh, and would you people please quit eating eggs sunny side up too?

(I can see aides and under-paid paralegals frantically adding that decree to some sub-section in the pending Modern Food Safety Act….)

Sheesh.   Have you no intelligence whatsoever?  Must we now legislate how your breakfast  be cooked, too?

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What really caught my eye was the long list of previous violations by DeCoster companies (seems the two main farms in this tragedy are owned by or heavily linked to Wright County Egg and Quality Egg, both owned by Austin “Jack” DeCoster).

Between 1994 and 2010, seems DeCoster companies have run afoul of and had to pay large fines for multiple offenses regarding harm to the environment, employees and animals.

As my eyes re-read the timeline, I noticed heavy involvement by Labor Secretaries, EPA, Immigration authorities and animal welfare groups… the list was long and varied, but allusions to different agencies involved made my mind fill in, “OSHA”, “Fair Wage & Labor”, “State Environmental agencies”…

I didn’t see FDA or subtle reference to such at all in the long list.   Guess they were anxiously sitting in their offices, unable to join in the battle because they didn’t have proper authority and power….

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Really, what kind of product did you expect from those who don’t care if hog waste runs off into local waterways, if  employees have safe and clean working conditions, who continually hire illegal immigrants willing to work for peanuts and suffer all kinds of indignities just to stay in the country and eat?  Apparently these folks also make the typical slave quarters of the pre-war south look like mansions when compared to the living conditions of their animals.

Rather than just blindly giving Ms. FDA some more power, me thinks perhaps a little more research is required.

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Some preliminary digging into historic egg prices tells me savvy egg producers plan for space and animal workforce management to counteract the dips in productivity compliments of the molting process.

(Which in chicken speak means, renewal time.  “I’m taking time off from reproducing and growing me some new feathers to replace these old, shabby ones.”   Nature does have a cycle.   Which, historically, is rebelliously out of sync with consumer demands….)

According to one poultry specialist report attempting to educate in regards to Flock Management the average wholesale price per dozen of eggs from 1983 – 2002 was 52.3¢.

I figure this is probably a good number, since the report was ‘sponsored’ by the United Egg Producers.  They better know how much money they get per dozen, else their 10-year approach to flock management will be severely handicapped.

This author also contends that prices took a jump in 2003.  Up to an average of .58¢ per dozen.  One section puzzled me:

“Are we entering a period of time for significant changes in the prices we receive for our eggs?  If so, should we re-think our replacement policies? If prices justify the elimination of molting is the industry prepared to make a major investment in new rearing facilities?”

How are they ‘eliminating’ molting?   Have they found the secret to keeping chickens from dropping their feathers?  How do the birds feel about this?  Did Mother Nature get the memo?

Further reading indicates they eliminate molting by selling off the chickens.  And replacing them with new ones, ready to lay….

Sometimes my cynical heart leads me to jump to conclusions….

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I also question the container in which these egg farmers are doing business.   A search to find who actually sets the wholesale price for eggs informs me it’s either complicated or on a need-to-know-basis, and I do not need to know.  (or perhaps I need to polish up my searching skills….it does happen….)

I did find this quote regarding poultry and egg prices from the USDA’s Economic Research website (tsk, tsk, last updated April, 2009):

“With almost 18 percent of total poultry production being exported, the U.S. poultry industry is heavily influenced by currency fluctuations, trade negotiations, and economic growth in its major importing markets.”

Okay, that’s interesting.   Has anyone heard the rumor a global economic crisis is going on?   Maybe egg prices were reduced in order to keep folks from starving due to poverty.   Lowered prices means egg producers need to get their profits from quantity, not quality….just a speculation…

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My brain committee speaks up about a gal I worked with years ago.

I never saw this gal wear the same outfit twice during the six months I was a temp in her office.   During a visit to her home,  my hostess proudly showed me her master closet, and two other full-size closets packed from floor to rafter with clothes. They made the local Goodwill racks look sparse and neat.

She was appalled I paid an average of $8/gallon for raw milk from an organic farm. (translation: small flock, healthy animals, modest lifestyle owners who love God’s creatures, great and small.)

She routinely went clothes shopping in order to keep her wardrobe and fashion plate status renewed.   In her mind, organic dairy farmers were interfering with my right to dress well.

When a society encourages fashionable, extravagant wardrobes over basic nutrition, then we all have a problem.

(No, I don’t look in other people’s medicine cabinets…It’s just her bad luck to combine a tour of her wardrobe with criticisms of my food choices…and my ability to type…)

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The buy-local-organic community cries “corporate farming” is the root of most of our evils.

I say corporate farming grew in the fertile ground prepared by a busy, complex society who values luxuries over necessities and demands ‘instant gratification’.

“I want an Egg McMuffin, My Way and I want it now!  Hurry up, I’m late for work.”

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Philip Zimbardo defines Evil as

The Exercise of Power to Intentionally Harm, Hurt, Destroy or Commit Crimes against Humanity.

He also contends it’s not just bad apples who commit Evil.  Often, it’s good apples who have been placed in a poor situation and are required to operate under a problematic system.

The plot thickens….

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The AP article listed over 3.5 million dollars paid by DeCoster Farms in fines and settlements since 1994, though I think they just highlighted the big ones.

Are the owner and his managers Evil people who must be stopped via a more powerful FDA?

Or are they business men trying to make a living in a system that demands short-cuts and piss-poor conditions just in order to make a living off a commodity they have no direct power in setting the price of other than through pricey lobbyists and campaign donations? (those two items do not come cheap…)

Have they grown so big and received so many tax breaks, they can survive even in the face of million dollar penalties, fines and settlements?

Did they grow to immense proportions through Taking Over the World Intent, or did they do their best to meet supplier demands in a price fixing system?

Did they discover they could not fulfill supply demands, profit requirements, regulatory fees, labor laws, environmental protection acts and good animal husbandry practices all at the same time?  Did they truly set out to destroy the average American or did they slide one slippery step at a time down a muddy slope built and maintained by our government and culture?

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One last observation – It’s amazing to me how I don’t have to go any further than my Yahoo email “What’s New?” tab to connect with reports on the Salmonella outbreak that simply cries out for more FDA power and authority.

Mainstream media is just in time as Congress reconvenes on September 13th and Senate Bill S510 is on the agenda.

I have to scan Facebook, read emails from a friend and surf independent blogs or small locally owned media to find out how local, state and federal authorities are wreaking havoc in the lives of small dairy, poultry and meat operations.

Via charges of regulatory, permit and licensing violations.

Resulting in operation shut down, seizure and/or destruction of personal property and Cease and Desist orders, punishable by jail time if ignored. (Grazin’ Acres, Bechard Family Farms, Rawesome organic co-op, Palmer Family Farm, Brigitte Ruthman just to name a few…)

These small farms were targeted via sting operations or unannounced raids by local regulatory agencies.   No allegations of tainted food, food borne illness, environmental hazards, labor violations or cruelty to animals have been made by those leveling charges.

They face extinction because they dared to provide themselves, their neighbors and local community with healthy, nutritious food.

But you won’t hear about them through Yahoo News or the AP.

Cause if you did, you’d tell Ms. FDA and the authors of S510 they already have power aplenty and they’d better start focusing their enforcement efforts on the proper targets.

Tyranny grows to power in the field of Fear and Hysteria.

Freedom of Food Choices

A few years ago, in an attempt to avoid becoming involved in politics, I told a dairy owner how the battle regarding legal access to raw milk would really be won:

“When 80% of the population prefers raw milk over pasteurized, then legislative bodies must heed the voice of the people.  I’ll contribute to the movement by educating people on the benefits of raw milk and the drawbacks of pasteurized.”

Grassroots movements are, to my mind, the only way to bring about lasting change.   The law just tags along in the wake of social reform.

I see now how naive I was.  I stand corrected.

I should have joined the Raw Milk Association of Colorado then.

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I awake to find yet another story of more small dairies raided by local authorities because they dared to give customers what they want – raw milk.  While complying with the local laws.   Which were so broad in nature, they are open to interpretation.

Problem #1

Our complex society contains an equally complex legal system.   Given our desire for “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, we’ve raced around for more than 200 hundred years, forming new laws whenever it seemed one of the Big Three were being threatened by individuals or groups.

In our quest to be safe, secure and free, with the legal backing to punish those who engage in activities harmful to others, we’re slowly wrapping our heads in a plastic bag.

Which, you’ll remember, your mother specifically told you not to do…

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Katherine Mangu-Ward’s article, Why Buy the Cow? references three dairy farms who have been the target of bureaucratic raids this summer.  All were going forth with their business, secure in their knowledge they were satisfying all laws and regulations, only to find out they weren’t.  Supposedly because the laws where they live are not specifically, item-by-item clear.   In other words:

“Ignorance of our Interpretation of the law is no excuse.”

Sigh…

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As more folks learn the benefits of raw milk, customer base grows.   Instead of proper legislation and regulation reform occurring to support local business, individual freedom of food choice and safety for the individual, we actually see more raids, more destruction or confiscation of private property and all other kinds of personal freedom violations.

Even when no one has gotten sick or filed a complaint.   This tells me Bureaucratic backlash against Grassroots movements does occur.  Around the raw milk industry it happens frequently.

So much for social change via legal,  non-violent means. (First Amendment: Right to Petition)

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Where do you draw the line between public safety and individual choice?

How do you fight to preserve your chosen way of life when you have followed the laws, harmed no one and still the local powers that be see you as a threat to society? (Grazin’ Acres Shutdown)

For those who cry for more Safe Food laws and regulations, I’ll remind you there are already remedies in place.

They are called Civil Litigation and Boycott.

If you purchase directly from a food supplier and end up ill, due to their carelessness (not your messy kitchen) then you sue for damages.   If that financial blow isn’t enough to either get their attention and result in improvement or shut down,  then a Boycott will put them out of business.

(I’m pretty certain there are no Federal Bailout funds for small, locally owned dairies. Warning! Boycotts wield the most power within a Free Market, which is quickly disappearing…)

For those who wish for more Food Safety I ask, “When are you going to take some personal responsibility, too?”

I’m convinced there are many benefits from raw milk, but I also took the time to tour the farm and know my supplier.   I observed how their animals were cared for and what kind of living conditions they had.

After all this, had I become ill, I would have had a comin’ to Jesus meeting with my supplier.   Asked them to pay the doctor bill, if applicable. Then made a choice of whether to continue doing business with them or not.

I can do all that by myself without wasting tax-paid services to go do my work for me…

Right now, I can still do that.  You keep whining ‘keep me safe, keep me safe’ I’ll lose that choice….Please quit whining.

(Whining really grates on my nerves…)

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If you’ve lost a loved one to food poisoning, then perhaps you’re thinking, “She just doesn’t get it.  If she had lost someone, she’d be taking this seriously.”

Well, newsflash, I’ve lost a son.   He was 17. Killed by bacterial meningitis.   He saw a doctor on Friday and a doctor on Monday morning, with phone consultations on Saturday and Sunday.   Monday morning he got some shots and was sent back home.  Quit breathing about 2 hours later.   Went into a coma.   Spent a day on life support and was brought back from the pearly gates 3 times before I was told there was no hope.

I was assured no mal-practice took place, via a coroner’s investigation.

Who cares?  I took him to folks with a license proclaiming they are legally permitted to  ‘practice medicine’.   I knew what I was getting into.

You don’t see me storming the nation’s capital shouting, “Hey!  I’m tired of all this practicing.  Can you please make it illegal for these folks to be in business unless they damn sure know what they’re doing?   Can you please pass another law so people will quit dying?”

People get sick and people die.  Yes, we would like to prevent it.  Yes, we have an emotional investment.   But please quit blindly calling for laws that cannot possibly prevent all death and illness, but will severely hamper our freedoms in their quest to attempt to.

Sheesh…how many times do I have to say it?

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Ben Franklin, Memoirs of the life and writings of Benjamin Franklin

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Research Notes: I was aware of news stories of illness traced back to a goat milk-share farm in Colorado around late June, early July.   I wanted to find an update on that investigation.

A google search of the keywords, “raw goat milk farm in Colorado, July shutdown” produced:

6,740 links in .26 seconds.  The first 11 revealed three bloggers screaming about food safety, 6 watchdog groups relaying information about raids and seizures on personal food stores, and 2 organizations calling for action before our freedom to eat the way we choose is lost.

I like Google.   It both tells me when my search skills need polishing and also gives me an idea of what the national climate around a subject is.  It highlights who knows how to tag, keyword and Search Optimize and who doesn’t.

Those who fight for Freedom of Food Choice are not only good at footnoting their articles, but they also know how to properly SEO their stuff!  Thus ending the allegation that those who prefer raw milk are “uneducated, illiterate country hicks.”

More Security Headed Your Way

Being a registered voter now means I have more responsibilities.   Like reading pending legislation and letting my representatives know how I feel about it.

Good thing I’m not working full-time.

This latest-greatest commentary brought to you compliments of Senator John Rockefeller.   (Why does that name ring a bell? Oh yeah, now I remember….)

Senate Bill S. 773, Cybersecurity Act of 2009, has various interpretations:

According to Campaign for Liberty folks, it will give the President the power to shutdown all non-government internet networks if a state of ’emergency’ is declared.

They hypothesize that ’emergencies’ could be declared when Heretical Bloggers (aka Free Thinking American Writers exercising their Freedom of Speech rights) are ardently posting their Disagreement with Proposed Legislation (historically labeled as “Disinformation Campaigns” by the current regime.)

According to OpenCongress summary:

“The bill also calls on the Department of Commerce to establish and maintain a clearinghouse  on information related to cybsecurity threat and vulnerability information to public and private infrastructure deemed “critical” by the President.” (Full Summary Here)

I used to work for a guy who kept a list of the people he viewed as ‘enemies’ in his desk drawer.   He deemed this list of people who were dumb enough to publicly disagree with him as ‘critical’.   I would like to see the President’s list of what he calls ‘critical’ before this legislation becomes law.

The Wikipedia summary shed some light on actual language of the bill and indicated other politicians are running around, writing their own bills regarding cyber security, by turns trying to lighten or increase the power of the President to take over or shut down telecommunications.

A quick glance at Senator John Rockefeller’s website homepage shows me he has secured over 131 million dollars in appropriated funds for West Virginia – some surfing and searching netted me a press release regarding s. 773.

During my journey, I see Senator Rockefeller is a big fan of security.   He is committed to keeping Americans safe.   He also appears to be a bigger fan of defending our own infrastructure and country vs. engaging in civil wars located elsewhere.

But I also see his website contains  content that refers to the Bush Administration.   I’m familiar with how political objectives can change over time.  I question if his viewpoints posted nearly 2 years ago are still the same.

Also, I wonder how much he really knows about the internet and therefore, it’s security.

The most novice blogger knows Website Commandment #1:

“Keep your site updated and add fresh content daily.”

(I’m not really casting stones – I fully disclose my recent dereliction of duty regarding Grazin’ Acres news…)

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I will again point out the glaring contradictions –

“Yes, we have no money” (sing to Yes, We Have No Bananas) – Whoop-Whoop!

C’mon, sing the next verse with me:

“But we have plenty of money to create a new agency, form a panel and oversee the implementation, licensing and organization of a Cyberspace Security System…”

(nope, it doesn’t all fit to the music… but, hey, ain’t we having fun?)

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Last spring, for some reason still not completely known to me, I spent a day with no cell phone service and no internet connection.   Seems a cell tower went down, but never discovered the reason for no internet service.

I wandered around the house, lost as to what to do.   (I’m good at ignoring laundry and dishes…)

I needed those tools – I was in the middle of building a database for a customer (who was trying to call me with their decisions regarding bells and whistles) and maintaining a website for a candidate for the local Sheriff’s position.

I realized how much of my life revolved around a house of cards.   I took a deep breath and set about restructuring my life.

Thank goodness!   While I’m currently blogging, I do have a back-up plan to put into action when the President is faced with an emergency and my local internet access is shut down.  It’s called solar-baked bread…and, perhaps, some housework…

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Here’s my version of how this whole SNAFU came about:

Military: Oh lookee at this cool new tool.

Department of Defense Contractor: Oh lookee at what we can make it do.

Genius Entrepreneur: Just think how much campaign contributions I can make if you allow me to turn this technology into a commerical enterprise.

Politician: You got it!

(Hum while the years go by….)

Government: Oh crap!  Look at all the free speech and disinformation campaigns going on… Look at all those sales!  Hey, are we getting our fair share of the sales? Something must be done!

Senator Security-Is-My-Name: I submit to you the Cyber Security Act of 2009, just sign on the dotted line and all will be well….

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Wikipedia informs me ( History of the Internet) the birth of this wonder was originally created to support higher education objectives and those smart folks were not happy when suggestions for commercial use first appeared.

Don’t a lot of college endeavors get accomplished via Federal Grants?

If so, I rest my case.   Just replace “Military” with “Federally Funded Research”.

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Those in my circle call me a closet conspiracy theorist.   I disagree.

I can’t blog from my closet.

As a nation, we have been led down the rosy path of living via cyberspace.  Regardless it’s beginnings, the system is now primarily financed and maintained by the ingenuity, hard work and private funds of individuals.

To find pending legislation that puts the decision on whether that infrastructure is ‘up and running’ or not  in the hands of a few highly placed officials causes me heartburn.

I liken it to the wanton destruction of food stores by local officials who don’t like how a farmer is doing business.

I’m also reminded of  the “Convert to Electronic Banking” campaign and the reality of that system.

Is this really what Security should look like?

Grazin’ Acres Update

This update is outdated – I sorta went on sabbatical and didn’t go where internet services were available.  (I also let this slide from my to-do list…)

But in short, an organic dairy farmer, with an Amish background, has operated a successful “feed thyself and thy neighbors who trust you with their stomachs” business for awhile now.   Agreements were made between individuals on who produced what, who got to consume it and how trade was to be negotiated.

Complaints regarding the arrangement are not forthcoming from any of the parties involved.

They are, however, coming loudly from local authorities.  (Agencies and personnel who depend on taxation/permit and licensing fees for their salaries and their annual budgets, I suspect.)

If the owners of Grazin’ Acres were not truly afoul of the law before, they sure are now.   Owners and customers Broke Evidence Seal tape placed by local authorities in order to access the food they needed for their sustenance.

On the flip side, I think valid charges of Vandalism or Destruction of Private Property can be levied against the raiding officials – apparently they put blue dye in a huge tank of nutritious, organic milk, so as to make it unsellable.

Hmmm… reminds me of slash and burn tactics of armies and the weird actions of abusive spouses – if we  don’t want it, can’t have it or make a profit off it, let’s destroy it so no one else can either…

Thank goodness the owners have some kind of religious faith and background.   Freedom of Religion is sometimes the last Constitutional defense you can use that will hold up against government interference. (Hey! I don’t begrudge anyone their tax-free status – just wish it was for everyone…)

Being a gnostic heretic myself, if I ever come afoul of the law, I’m screwed.

(Note* translation of ‘gnostic heretic’ is as follows: “One who has free thought regarding spiritual topics”)

What reminded me to check in again on the saga of Grazin’ Acres was the fact that zealous profiteers (aka local government agencies) are now passionately fighting the battle against unlicensed, no-permit Lemonade Stands.

(Thanks to NimblePig for alerting us to this use of valuable resources.)

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Granted, I’m glad I can make consumable purchases and not worry if I’m going to die each and every time something crosses my lips.   I realize inspection and the funds for such are needed in order to provide this public service.

But I’m reminded of a friendly debate with Ms. Capricorn-Bookkeeper recently regarding regulation, taxation, the Free Market, the benefits and evils of capitalism and about any other highly controversial topic you can name. (that is the true benchmark of friendship – how many subjects can you debate and remain friends?)

To save you pain, I’ll paraphrase the conclusions of that hour long conversation in the following clip:

In a free market, those whose products are unsafe or crappy go out of business.   People quit buying from them.   We don’t need all these laws and regulations in order to realize 3% growth each year via bigger government and increased public spending ventures.   My gawd – there is literally no ceiling on the ingenuity we possess.   We can come up with all kinds of really needed and really cool products and services.

Really, who’d have thought you could talk to your friend while cosily at home in your jammies and not have to actually clean house in preparation for company? Thank you Mr. Bell.

I am not suggesting we return to the days of milk poisoning or selling cocaine as the elixir that heals.  And I’m not silly enough to think getting rid of all regulatory laws and institutions tomorrow is a viable idea.

On the other hand, I truly question our current system of ensuring food safety.   When those who inspect, enforce and oversee food safety also depend upon income via permits, licensing fees, fines and penalties to shore up their out-of-control budgets, then me thinks we’ve just let the fox into the henhouse.

I also am highly wary of the revolving door between agencies who oversee food safety, production and sales and corporations who like to patent life.  (See Future of Food for details and information.  Trust me, it’s worth the hour and a half out of your day.)

How about American ingenuity and entrepreneurship in the form of affordable home food safety testing kits?

Consumable product (our society has been trained to love consumable goods!), food safety for the individual, a new booming business guaranteed to save lives and enable the destruction of those who poison their neighbors while making a fortune.  It would also mean new jobs… hopefully based in America….

Unfortunately, I’m not a business person, chemist or investor.  But you go right ahead.   I’ll just take an annual stock dividend check as a thank you for the idea….

Any takers?