Greetings, fellow Fat Heads.
I’m guessing Tom had his whole routine for this year’s Low Carb Cruise down cold by Monday. I’m also guessing he’s still going over it again and again. That’s how he rolls. I, on the other hand, don’t tend to burden myself with such preparation. So here we go!
The sausage factory is a reference to the observation generally attributed to Otto Von Bismark — that people who like politics or sausage shouldn’t watch either being made.
Actually, making sausage isn’t that bad. I’ve made a few batches since “converting” from the conventional nutritional wisdom, and it’s been pretty good. But watching law being made is every bit as revolting as the quote implies. I’ve been there in the belly of the beast, and it’s pretty much always ugly. I did get a state legislator to curse at me once while I was testifying against some insanity. Other than that, though, there’s nothing redeeming about it.
There’s actually something even worse than lawmaking. That would be “rulemaking.” That’s where the regulatory agencies are given charge to “interpret” the sundry laws and directives passed through the legislative process. The more vague the law, the more the regulators get to decide. So the actual rules you have to live by are determined by unelected bureaucrats. They can be (and are) arbitrary, contradictory, and unevenly enforced. The idea of even being in the same room with one of these people irritates me. Watching them at work infuriates me.
So, there I was yesterday, in the same room, watching a bunch of them work.
And it’s all your fault.
See, since you all keep getting Tom invited to speak hither and yon, and then I get invited to sit in the Big Chair while he’s gone, some of you have gotten to know a bit about me. One such person, Angel S — who also lives in Illinois — sent me a heads up that the Illinois Department of Public Health was getting ready to regulate raw milk producers out of business.
I read Angel’s blog post, and then started looking for more information. The IL Dept of Health, with funds from the US FDA (“official position: all raw milk is dangerous”), had set up a Raw Milk Steering Subcommittee to investigate if raw milk needed regulation in Illinois. To ensure deep understanding of the product and issues, the regulators picked — for this 19-member committee — exactly ONE person who sold raw milk as a vocation (Donna O’Shaunessy, see her blog post here). Well, that’s not entirely accurate, because she wasn’t asked to be on the committee until they’d already had their first two meetings and had finished their draft recommendations. When Donna inquired as to how the committee could propose drastic new regulations of a product without actually speaking to anyone who makes or consumes the product, the head regulator replied that she didn’t know how to contact any of those people.
Unsurprisingly, they came up with helpful recommendations like only allowing 100 gallons of raw milk sales per month. And requiring that anyone selling raw milk get a Class A Dairy license. In other words, force raw milk producers to spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment you don’t need if you’re not a feedlot, volume milk producer; regularly produce hundreds of pages of useless documentation; and then limit their sales to the equivalent of about one cow’s monthly output. Did I mention that seven of the committee members represented the interests of mega-dairy operators Dean Food and Prairie Farms? You know, commodity, low-cost producers who already have to have Class A licenses.
As it turns out, even though IDPH couldn’t figure out how to find anyone involved with raw milk, Donna sure could! She embarrassed IDPH into adding some more raw milk producers and some consumers to the committee (n.b., that is the only way to get a bureaucrat to do something other than what they had already decided they were going to do). Also, it seems a BUNCH of people started contacting their alleged representatives, who started contacting IDPH asking them why they were making their constituents so mad. People were also contacting the bureaucrats directly. Smart people. Passionate people. Loud people. Bother, bother.
Imagine what was going through the bureaucrats’ minds. “But, everyone from the FDA told us raw milk was bad, and just a few fringe lunatics drink it. And all of our swell friends from the big dairies had such good ideas — they don’t have any problem with 10,000 gallon chill tanks and separate milk parlors and monthly testing. That’s what they let us tell them they have to do!” Hilarious.
The third meeting first got moved to a bigger venue (the Illinois Corn Producers’ building in Bloomington) based on the number of people saying they wanted to attend (danged Open Meetings laws!). Then it got rescheduled to add time for public comment because so many people wanted to direct a few words to our overseers. Here’s what it looked like when I got there Wednesday morning:
That’s from about halfway back in the line of cars that were parked on the street. The parking lot was already full.
Here’s what it looked inside the meeting room after they switched into an even BIGGER building next door after lunch.
And as much as I hate being around, and watching, and especially listening to government bureaucrats tell us how much good they’re doing us, it’s almost fun when you’re in a room full of those smart, passionate, loud people who’ve had enough and don’t intend to take it anymore.
Almost, hell. Turns out watching sausage being made can be fun — it just depends on who’s getting stuffed.
Well, it’s getting late, and The Wife and The Oldest Son and I are off to watch a Cubs game tomorrow from one of the rooftops. I’ll give you the play-by-play analysis of the meeting later this weekend (I probably won’t be able to catch any comments until Saturday).
The Older Brother