Sunday, August 19, 2012

Regulating Us to Death

The Vintner
Summer Fundraiser 2012, Day Six

Is this Sunday? And yesterday was Saturday?

It’s harder to keep track of the days now…That should be easier, since this is our Summer Fundraising Week, but I just took a day out of turn with this particular bleg post. Normally the Baron would be writing something sane and appropriate, but…but I get MAIL, and some of the stories are more than a person ought to have to bear in silence.

So if it’s Sunday, we’re at Day Six, right? And even though faithful friends have come by to tip the cup, it is the weekend, after all. Weekend traffic is always quieter — though things did pick up this evening so there is cheer to go round.

I’ve pondered my problem with determining a given day in the week. When a good friend was “outed” for her political views and summarily fired from her long-time job, she wailed, “How will I ever remember where I am without a job to hang my days on”?


  • After the children grow up and go away, there is an end to the punctuations of school schedules and holidays;
  • After the body says no and refuses to get up for work any longer or falls asleep at the wheel if you insist on going anyway;
  • After the landscape artist puts away easel and paints, leaving the cedars and haystacks henceforth unpainted;
  • After the computer analyst refuses to be inserted into a cubicle and begins his morning trek upstairs to be telecommuted…

Tip jarAfter all of that, one begins to ask “what day is this again?”

Ah, for the days of grandmothers who sorted their weeks and days so predictably: washing on Mondays, ironing on Tuesdays, baking on Wednesdays, cleaning on Thursdays and cooking on Fridays…and who could respond from the depths of comforting authority, “Of course it’s Tuesday, you silly. Why else would I have this iron in my hand?”

My netbook has the date and day on the bottom right of its little screen. But sometimes I forget to look… It’s not difficult to tell the season of the year, though: it’s harvest time here.

All the things planted years ago are bearing without complaint: no vegetables got put in during this drought-dried time. But there are grapes and figs and peaches. One sad pear — the hornets can have it; I’ll wait for the wood pears down the path to turn to honey if they’ve not dried up by then. The summer drought has left us soul-parched.

City folk are probably less attuned to the signs, though the lack of rain to wash the streets and sidewalks must wilt even urban souls a bit. And a dusty plane tree ringed round with cement ought have some replenishment now and again.

So it turns out that this Summer of our Discontent Fundraiser is aptly named. Those discontents take so many forms, and have been arriving ever more relentlessly now that the predicted-to-be-ugly presidential campaign has begun — actually Obama more or less promised to bring a knife to the party, so it wasn’t a prediction. More like a threat.

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I touched on one serious discontent yesterday: the mortally over-regulated regimentation that is the opposite of free enterprise. It is mindlessly rule-bound, it leaves poverty in its wake; it kills ingenuity and initiative. Above all, it is a poisonous trickle-down tyranny that affects us all.

But it’s hard to see: how can you see the something that didn’t occur because the bureaucrats banished it? And why did they banish it? Because that is the nature of czars: to dream up ways to enforce poverty in the name of some higher good — grab a leftie virtue and you can see where something might have been: global warming anyone? A recipe for erosive impoverishment.

How do I know? I just saw our new electric rates and our electric company says the pain is just prodromal — the real anguish will begin when they start cutting the coal supply.

Here are a few examples of things that didn’t disappear, but not because the czars and ’crats didn’t try:

Lunch lady Angela Prattis thought she was just doing God’s work, handing out free lunches to hungry children in a Pennsylvania neighborhood. But even acts of altruism, it seems, must bow to red tape.

National outrage has erupted after Prattis found herself running afoul of Chester Township zoning laws and threatened with a $600 fine if she continued… Moreover, she faces a $1,000 fee if she wants to continue performing her good deeds, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The lunch lady, who is also a youth pastor at her church, was told that she needed a township zoning permit continue to hand out lunches outside her home. And the approval process requires an official hearing. And that hearing would cost her $1,000, the Inquirer reported.

Under the aegis of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Nutritional Development Services, this woman jumped through the hoops, taking their nutritional training in order to feed the poor, working with the state, which inspected her operation and supplies the food to the Diocese (uh oh…here come the Church/State Separation folks). The Lunch Lady was the final distributor, fixing the food and handing it out at her door.

But was all that enough for Chester Township? Not hardly. Some bean-counters came around threatening her with daily fines and court. And maybe jail time. I guess that’s when they take her three children? And why will she garner a criminal record, you ask? FOR FEEDING THE POOR & DOING SO WITH A LICENSE FROM THE STATE.

Yeah, I know I’m yelling but this is insane. And mean. And sand-poundingly dumb. Fortunately, enough of the American spirit is still extant: people in the community have offered to cover her expenses and she’s had “dozens of calls” from others offering to do whatever is needed to keep her kitchen operating. She’s even been offered pro bono legal representation from the Grinches at Town Hall.

The link above came from Los Angeles (thanks to the Lurker), but the Inquirer did the leg work:

Prattis told the Inquirer that she’s grateful for the offers but has not taken any money yet because she’s still hoping authorities will waive the fee. The Inquirer said it spoke to the township’s acting solicitor, Murray Eckell, who acknowledged that the incident is giving local government a black eye. But he said the township is in a difficult position.

“Suppose a child gets hurt on her property,” Eckell was quoted as saying. “Will the family sue the township? What if somebody gets food poisoning? “What she is doing is commendable…But if we don’t have laws, there’s chaos. It’s a difficult situation for the township to be in.”

And if you have laws enough to choke people, Mr. Eckell, then EVERYONE dies of starvation, even the lawyers like you. Meanwhile, until the next town meeting, the Lunch Lady plans to continue feeding the kids who come to the door while the town manager hides under the desk avoiding the press. I hope that worthy stays there: it’s a fitting space for a cramped “regulator”.

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For the next story we go to Michigan, another blue state full of watchers waiting to jump on anyone who steps out of line. Remember the woman — a stay-at-home mom — who volunteered to watch her neighbors’ children until the school bus came? Those neighbors had to be at work and their employers didn’t care about school bus schedules (another facet of the mindlessness displayed toward children’s needs I mentioned in a previous rant) so the housewife did her neighbors a favor and what happened then? The local authorities tried to force her to join a daycare union and pay dues for something she was doing for free. [I wrote about it then, but I’m too tired to find the link].

This new outrage is from Holland, Michigan. Or it was an outrage until the rule-makers found the publicity was melting their regulations. The city has finally relented and given back a thirteen year-old his hotdog cart. Tacky and outrageous, since this boy was supporting his parents with his hotdog business:

Nathan Duszynski…received national attention for his efforts to open the cart to help his troubled family. The Holland City Council voted Wednesday to allow Nathan to run his hot dog business until the end of October on the sidewalk adjacent to a downtown sporting goods store.

Reliable Sport had initially given Nathan permission to set up the stand in the store’s parking lot. Minutes after Nathan opened for business on July 17, however, a city official informed him he was violating a city ordinance. After a video… helped the story go viral, Nathan and his family petitioned the city for an exemption [see the sidebar at that video for more regulation stories].

When these events began, Nathan’s family faced significant challenges. Both his stepfather and mother suffer from disabilities, and they were unemployed. In the days since, their problems have mounted. Nathan’s stepfather, Doug Johnson, was arrested on an outstanding warrant and found to have a criminal history. Nathan and his mother, Lynette Johnson, temporarily moved into a homeless shelter, though they later left.

The city’s decision to provide Nathan with temporary permission to operate his hot dog cart is a welcome development. City officials have recognized through their actions that Holland’s zoning policies can have negative consequences for the economically vulnerable — in this case, for a 13-year-old boy who is trying to improve life for his family. And in fairness to the city’s leaders, Holland is just one of myriad American cities with similar regulations.

The Mackinac Center has a fuller report on this and other cases within its purview:

…Nathan is not the only would-be entrepreneur. Holland officials, who are reportedly exploring the creation of a food-cart zone, should review all of the city’s zoning ordinances to find ways to reduce barriers to economic opportunity. Restrictive policies often remove the bottom rungs of the economic ladder and make it hard for the economically disadvantaged to rise…

America is becoming peculiarly resistant to the poor trying to get out of the trap. I used to talk to a Russian couple in a nearby town who went through blue-city hell and impoverished themselves for the paperwork required to open a dumpling shop. They knew they had a good product — those things are addictive — and they were both up at 4:00 am to have dumplings stuffed, parboiled and ready to fry by 9:00. They literally couldn’t make enough food for the appetites of all those yuppies who showed up at the dutch door to place their orders.

The hole-in-the-wall decrepit 6x12 foot stand-alone shack close by a church parking lot had no room for the pregnant wife to sit down, so she'd sit on a folding chair against the western side of the building, enjoying the sun. By 2:00 p.m., they’d be closed for the day, every dumpling sold. I’d watch her limp off, holding her aching back.

Two years later, they were in large, upscale and airy space two blocks away and their little boy toddled around picking up papers…

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For space’s sake, I’ll give you the link to this next one. But please read it — a case study of a pet peeve of many people who find the obsessive need to credentialize even the simplest tasks to be one of the most egregious of regulatory sins: This judge’s ruling will warm your heart:

In a major victory for economic liberty, a federal court ruled late yesterday that Utah’s requirement that hairbraiders have a government-issued cosmetology license is unconstitutional.

And his reasoning is a pleasure to read.

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What I’ve saved for last is closest to home. A former bastion of small town common sense, Fauquier County’s Board of Supervisors seems to be trying to kill the wine industry within its boundaries. These rulings are way past irresponsible, into some new level of sadistic “because-we-can” nightmare territory. I’m going with The Washington Examiner’s version because I like their title: “Virginia Vintners Taste the Police State”. Hyperbole? Not if you’re in the wine business up there. And I’m quoting the whole report because it’s important to this state. We are dependent on our wineries for revenue [besides, this writer sounds like me]. The tyrants in upscale Fauquier affect us all in Virginia:

While the Obama administration is busy eviscerating private property rights at the federal level, Republican-controlled Fauquier County, Va., has decided to follow suit in its own way. Fauquier Board of Supervisors recently passed a winery ordinance that tramples private property rights and some fundamental civil liberties. The county, which is located about an hour west of Washington, calls itself an agricultural community. Its scenic, sprawling farmlands have become home to a growing number of wineries. Vintners have discovered that Fauquier climate and rich soil are ideal for growing grapes. Most of the wineries are mom and pop operations. Some, though, have been more creative in marketing, employing more people, and generating revenue. The county thinks such success must be punished.

At the center of all this is the county zoning administrator, a bureaucratic czar named Kimberley Johnson, whose bullying and heavy-handed enforcement tactics have resulted in calls for her dismissal by county farmers and residents. Johnson was recently the subject of a citizen-farmer “pitchfork protest” in a matter in which she fined one farmer for conducting a pumpkin carving and a birthday party for eight little girls without the proper permit. The winery ordinance is Obama-esque, passed under the pretext that it protects the health, safety and welfare of the public. It forces wineries to close at 6 p.m. and prohibits sale of food — something that goes quite safely with a taste of wine — unless the wineries obtain special permits from the zoning administrator. The ordinance lists prohibited winery activities such as hot air balloon rides, farmers’ markets, and mini-golf, which assuredly threaten the health, safety and welfare of the public, right?

Among the prohibited activities, the ordinance includes anything else determined by the zoning administrator “to be similar in nature or in impact to” the listed activities. That’s the equivalent allowing police officers to ticket drivers for nearly anything they wish. The winery ordinance comes with potential criminal penalties, yet it has weak standards of evidence and due process to protect the innocent. It’s a civil liberties and property rights nightmare on its face. Chicago politics and even dictatorships mask their tyrannical abuses of law better than this.

Fauquier gave its zoning czar the same type of unlimited discretion to decide whether to issue special permits to stay open past 6 p.m., to host events, and to determine entry road surface conditions. This gives the zoning administrator unfettered control over the very existence of wineries, and creates conditions under which vintners must fear her every next move.

Perhaps the most offensive provision of the ordinance authorizes “private personal gatherings” at wineries. Someone obviously forgot to tell Fauquier officials that in America, we don’t need government permission for private personal gatherings on our own property. Yet even in their contempt for the freedom of assembly and private property rights, Fauquier officials limited the definition of “private personal gathering” to owners who reside at or adjacent to their wineries, and who do not market their wine at such gatherings. This means no winery signs — no bottle labels, even, when owners hold private personal gatherings on their property, because that’s marketing.

The reporter said it all. Except to mention that those swollen wasteful gargantuan “stimulus” fakes being vomited out of the District of Columbia won’t do most of us any good. Those wineries will. Welcome to the Soviet County of Fauquier, y’all.

And when I’m sad, I find ways to work around a given particular mess. Here’s some bibliotherapy I happened upon and plan to read tomorrow:

The Law That Governs Government: Reclaiming The Constitution From Usurpers And Society's Biggest Lawbreaker

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A quiet Saturday fund-raising day.

Yesterday a faithful donor from Texas gave a Texas-sized gift, which nicely rounded out our donations for the day:

Stateside: California, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Tennessee, and Texas

Near Abroad: Canada

Far Abroad: Australia, Croatia, Italy, and the UK.

See y’all tomorrow. I may be up for my “Prince of Lies” rant sober report by then. Meanwhile, your gifts have so raised my endorphin levels that I am going to try some volunteer work of mine own for a few hours, on a what promises to be a lovely Sunday afternoon. Wish me luck: it’s been years since I’ve felt strong enough to attempt such a thing.

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Heikki Polojärvi said...

I wonder if it's a law of nature or something that petty bureaucrats depelop a napoleon syndrome and begin to bully the people they're supposed to serve. It would seem to be the same everywhere.

Here some 13-year girls had a small kiosk, and earned some pocket money by selling lemonade and snacks. Until some bureaucrats spotted them and forced to close the kiosk for not having due permits and licenses for the activity. Hearing about that made me want to bang my head to the nearest hard surface. Or rather, the bureacrats' heads.

Nemesis said...

Good luck Dymphna and God Bless!

Anonymous said...

The Thousand Points of Light are going out all over America. We may not see them lit again in our time – unless we first pay the extortionist state protection money.

George Pal

Anonymous said...

The states are desperate, especially the ones with a large welfare/illegal alien contingent and state workers with Cadillac benefits packages. Think Blue States for the cliff notes version.

This is why they are cracking down and trying to siphon money from the working class.

In light of state revenues declining and plummeting property values. The states refuse to cut back pay and pension plans for state and city workers, they refuse to do means testing for welfare bennies, they keep the welcome mat for illegals and other assorted parasites.

It all adds up to desperation and extortion. It won't save them though. They won't cut where the real lard is so they are going to go bankrupt.

Judenlieber said...

I already have trouble recognizing my own country. What will it look like in a couple of years if they win this election?
Maybe I should do a bit more alchemy in reverse. (Converting gold into lead.)

Dymphna said...

Anon said:

The states are desperate, especially the ones with a large welfare/illegal alien contingent...

You're right. However, VA balanced its budget this year. For the most part, we aren't burdened with those economy-squashing unions.

The increase in wineries in this state (and in the Yadkin Valley in North Carolina which actually has AVA terrior) has been phenomenal. The Tourist Board has promoted Winery Tours in varioous areas and the revenues deriving therefrom are growing.

Thus, killing the wineries in one county appears to be the work of one zoning czar. It defies common sense. I don't even know if this is an elected or a appointed position...