Posts filed under Bureaucratic Rationality

Bureaucratic Rationality #7: the Louisiana State Health Department vs. Health and Adequate Nutrition in Louisiana

From occupied Louisiana, here’s how a state Health Department is forcing homeless shelters to destroy demonstrably safe and healthy meat because even though they accept the safety record of the slaughterhouse that processed it, they don’t recognize the organization that donated it, and, even though venison is something that humans have subsisted on since before recorded history, it’s not an approved meat source to be distributed commercially.

SHREVEPORT, La. (CBS Houston) — Louisiana’s State Health Department forced a homeless shelter to destroy $8,000 worth of deer meat because it was donated from a hunter organization.

KTBS-TV reports that the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission lost 1,600 pounds of venison because the state’s Health Department doesn’t recognize Hunters for the Hungry, an organization that allows hunters to donate any extra game to charity.

We didn’t find anything wrong with it, Rev. Henry Martin told KTBS. It was processed correctly, it was packaged correctly.

The trouble began last month after the Department of Health and Hospitals received a complaint that deer meat was being served at the homeless shelter. A health inspector went out and told the homeless shelter that deer meat was not allowed to be served and that is had to be destroyed.

Although the meat was processed at a slaughterhouse (Bellevue) that is permitted by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture to prepare and commercially distribute meat obtained from approved farms, deer are not an approved meat source to be distributed commercially, the department said on its Facebook page. And because hunters brought the deer to the slaughterhouse, there is no way to verify how the deer were killed, prepared or stored.

So, therefore:

Martin says that bleach had to be poured onto the meat in order to destroy it.

They threw it in the dumpster and poured Clorox on it, Martin told KTBS. Not only are we losing out and it’s costing us money, the people that are hungry aren’t going to get as quality of food, the hunter that’s given his meat in good faith is losing out.

While we applaud the good intentions of the hunters who donated this meat, we must protect the people who eat at Rescue Mission, and we cannot allow a potentially serious health threat to endanger the public, the Health Department stated.

— CBS Houston (25 February 2013), Louisiana Forces Homeless Shelter to Destroy $8,000 Worth of Deer Meat

Here, as everywhere, the Licensing State operates on the fundamental assumption that anything it doesn’t know about, must be a potentially serious health threat, and the only way that it can know about anything is by checking whether or not the source has the right paper license, issued according to the state’s unilaterally dictated procedures. It doesn’t matter that literally nobody has been hurt and many people in desperate circumstances have been helped; it doesn’t matter you can show them there isn’t anything wrong with the meat; all that matters is that you can’t show them your papers. And so, rather than asking to just test some of the meat, or accepting the results of the health and safety tests that were already performed at the slaughterhouse, they sadistically insist that the food must be thrown away and rendered inedible with bleach, at tremendous expense and to the known detriment of the shelter and the health and nutrition of the homeless people who depend on it, so that they can ensure that the right forms are filled out and only officially licensed meat is served in the state of Louisiana. This sado-statist compliance hold on desperately-needed food, which insists on bureaucratic procedure and approving legal recognition at the expense of demonstrable safety, is dignified as protecting the people who eat at Rescue Mission from the food that they need to get by.

Bureaucratic rationality, n. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may have something good in their life without your authorization.

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Wednesday Lazy Linking

Simple solutions to stupid problems, part 2: By The Power Vested In Me edition

Reporting from Las Vegas — In a city launched by shotgun weddings and quickie divorces, and which offers the chance to be wed by faux Liberaces, King Tuts and Grim Reapers, there remains at least one nuptial taboo: You can’t be married by an atheist.

Michael Jacobson, a 64-year-old retiree who calls himself a lifelong atheist, tried this year to get a license to perform weddings. Clark County rejected his application because he had no ties to a congregation, as state law requires.

So Jacobson and attorneys from two national secular groups — the American Humanist Assn. and the Center for Inquiry — are trying to change things. If they can’t persuade the state Legislature to rework the law, they plan to sue.

. . .

When Lipman and his wife moved to Florida this spring, Jacobson — a balding man with a thin, white mustache and a trace of his native Philadelphia in his voice — decided to become the local atheist celebrant.

But I’m not going to do it by saying I belong to a religious organization, he said. That’s a sham, because atheists are not religious.

Jacobson filled out an application to perform marriages, but sidestepped the questions on religion. County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre said she had little choice but to reject it.

As Nevada law requires, all of the county’s 2,500 or so licensed officiants are connected to a congregation — though some are as small as two people, Parraguirre said. (Judges and commissioners of civil marriages can also lead ceremonies.)

Some of the state’s regulations hark back to the 1960s, when ministers were dumping their flocks to become wealthy Marrying Sams, according to the book Las Vegas: An Unconventional History. One would-be officiant apparently hoped to marry enough people to finance his divorce.

Lawmakers, trying to ferret out the profit-hungry, said weddings must be among a minister’s incidental duties. Drive past the string of neon-lighted downtown chapels, and you’ll see that didn’t quite pan out.

Clark County issues nearly 100,000 marriage licenses a year and boasts dozens of places to exchange vows — atop Harley-Davidsons, in Renaissance costumes, aboard gondolas — 24 hours a day. The competition is so fierce that in recent years, employees at rival chapels have accused one another of slashing tires and shouting death threats. Someone is working at all of these chapels, said Parraguirre, whose office doesn’t have the resources to track down ministers flouting the law. In fact, she worries that if the criteria to become an officiant changes, her staff will be bombarded with people coming in and just doing it for a job.

. . .

Judges performing ceremonies, for example, don’t have to meet religious criteria, so it’s absurd to make anyone else do so, [Lynne Henderson, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas] said. Officials could regulate celebrants in other ways, such as making them get training.

— Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times (2008-12-14): Atheist may sue if law on Las Vegas officiants won’t change

Let’s suppose it’s true that County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre’s office just hasn’t got the resources to deal with all the applications that would bombard them if Nevada did away its mandates for state discrimination against religiously unconventional marriages. It seems to me there’s a simple solution: save County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre the work by abolishing the laws that require wedding officiants to get a license from the State in the first place. If there’s no licensure requirement, there will be no discrimination lawsuits, and also no applications to bombard poor County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre.

If your Elvis-impersonating streetside neon-chapel minister’s motives are really focused on making a living rather than on serving the Lord, who cares? Couples who want a religiously serious wedding will presumably go to a church or temple or mosque where they can get one.

If your Starfleet-uniformed Captain of the Starship of Love hasn’t had some State-sanctioned course of training (training in what?), who cares? Couples who want to vet their celebrants for training or competency will do so.

Even if you think that the State has some legitimate business using a licensing system to pick and choose which marriages it will or will not recognize (I don’t), what possible purpose can it serve to require not only the couple, but also the third party that they hire to officiate — whose only legal function is to witness the vows and attest that these folks mean what they say — to get specially vetted and licensed by the State? Really, seriously, bureaucratic rationality aside, who could possibly care, and why?

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Bureaucratic rationality #6: Brings All the Boys to the Yard edition

(Via The Agitator 2007-11-04.)

Every spring and every fall for the past two decades, Laura Soelberg has had a yard sale. She is 72 years old and she makes a little bit of money for herself selling her old things in the yard of her late mother’s house. Her friends and neighbors look forward to the event and familiar faces greet her every year. She does no advertising, collects no taxes, and has no employees. And now she faces up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Laura Soelberg’s fall garage sale began much as it had for 19 years: Friends parked in the church lot next to her mother’s Minnetonka house, greeted her with hugs and gifts, and began browsing.

But within half an hour, the authorities arrived to shut her down.

A police officer and two city workers ordered a halt to the Oct. 24 event, telling everyone to get out, shoppers said.

It was almost like they were breaking up an underage party, said Laurel Elhart, a Minnetonka resident who had attended the sales for at least a dozen years.

Now Soelberg, 72, could face criminal charges — and if convicted, up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine and a year of probation.

The city considers Soelberg’s yard sales a zoning violation, in part because, while the Deephaven resident owns the house, she does not live in it.

Soelberg looks upon her twice-a-year sales as a tradition she started with her mother in the 1980s and merely continued at her mother’s home after her mother’s death in the late ’90s.

I don’t understand. This is such a minor, little thing, she said. Everyone likes a garage sale.

Before each sale, which generally runs four days, Soelberg sends out reminder postcards to those who request them and gives the neighbors a heads up. Andy Martin, who lives next door, wrote a letter to the city in support of Soelberg, saying that his family is probably the most impacted of anyone by her sale. But her events, in contrast to others he’s seen in the city, are infrequent.

Before you sanction her, you would need to sanction many others, Martin wrote.

Yvonne Brown, who has known Soelberg for 20 years, arrived two hours after the authorities did on Oct. 24 and found the few people still there had stunned looks on their faces. It was like the Gestapo had just come and left, she said.

I couldn’t believe it. There are garage sales all over all the neighborhoods. Why this one?

But the city has raised another question: Are Soelberg’s events really garage sales?

In general, the city draws a legal distinction between a garage sale and a commercial venture, city planner Julie Wischnack said: The difference is whether someone is utilizing the sale for an income-generating venture. Is it truly trying to get rid of items around the house? Or is it a commercial operation?

… Her friends/customers, as she calls them, have voiced support for her in letters and a petition. Elhart said most of the shoppers are acquaintances — middle-aged and elderly women who have met at the sales over the years. And most were shocked by the police invasion. It’s odd that it’s been going on for so long and now, all of a sudden, it’s an issue, Elhart said.

— Jenna Ross, Minneapolis Star Tribune (2007-11-02): When is a yard sale not a yard sale?

So there you have it. City cops busted up an peaceful neighborhood yard sale and now they are threatening a 72 year old woman with jail and a $1,000 fine because she might be making a little extra to support herself through yard sales, without first going through the red tape and expense for a city business license. Also because there’s a zoning code, and the peace and quiet of the neighborhood needs to be protected whether her neighbors care or not. If the city government weren’t there to butt in and hassle Laura Soelberg, her happy neighbors, and her willing customers, who would? Without those zoning and business license regulations, just what would save quiet Minnesota neighborhoods from the rapacity of unfettered flea markets?

Bureaucratic rationality, n.: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy without permission.

Bureaucratic rationality #5: A Dream Deferred edition

First the IRS ate your Christmas turkey. Now they are coming to crush your childhood dreams, too.

(Via Technology Liberation Front 2007-01-29.)

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — Brian Emmett’s childhood fantasy came true when he won a free trip to outer space.

But the 31-year-old was crushed when he had to cancel his reservation because of Uncle Sam.

Emmett won his ticket to the stars in a 2005 sweepstakes by Oracle Corp., in which he answered a series of online questions on Java computer code.

He became an instant celebrity, giving media interviews and appearing on stage at Oracle’s trade show.

For the self-described space buff who has attended space camp and watched shuttle launches from Kennedy Space Center, it seemed like a chance to become an astronaut on a dime.

Then reality hit. After some number-crunching, Emmett realized he would have to report the $138,000 galactic joy ride as income and owe $25,000 in taxes.

Unwilling to sink into debt, the software consultant from the San Francisco Bay area gave up his seat.

There was definitely a period of mourning. I was totally crestfallen, Emmett said. Everything you had hoped for as a kid sort of evaporates in front of you.

— 2007-01-29: Uncle Sam spoils dream trip to space

Normally you would think that winning a contest would be the only way that people other than the hyper-rich might have a chance to experience space tourism in the near future; right now the cash price of a space trip is prohibitiely expensive for anyone else. So prohibitively expensive that just paying the tax on that much income would be prohibitively expensive for anyone else, too.

But if the tax bureaucrats didn’t make sure that you pay for your once-in-a-lifetime chance a trip to the stars, at a rate assessed according to the current, prohibitively expensive cash value of that trip, then who would? Best to keep the rabble away from a chance at being astronauts anyway; hopes and dreams can be dangerous things.

Bureaucratic rationality, n. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy without permission.