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Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Slippery Slope of Cow Pucky

It is a funny thing--getting older. I used to be able to lick and stick a political label on my forehead. I thought I knew everything. Now I only guess at shades of nuances because things keep getting so complex. There was even a time, as a single parent, when I'd vote almost according to a single issue--education. Currently I find myself wandering all over the political divides and picking up nuanced argumentative threads that previously I thought were closer to landing political points on Mars rather than Earth.

As my earlier comments on the JBS E Coli breakout suggest I think the public health aspect should be the absolute number one priority in the food supply chain. Pretty much it appears that at some corporations the number one priority is cheap labor, high executive pay, and ROI.

Don't get me wrong here. I do not care either for that band wagon seat which rolls all corporate practices into a single doggy-poo bag either. Ethics and best business practices make for some darn good long thriving companies. These are the smart executives who are worth their salt and long term visioning. Unfortunately, these companies are becoming harder and harder to spot amongst the thorns.

With that disclosure, reading the plans being pushed by the USDA for tagging cattle (due to public health concerns) in the New York Times article linked to below, rattles my nerves just a bit. This appears to be not a cure to a thorny issue but a very slippery vine to go sliding down. But my own argument takes a slightly different context although I may arrive at the same end-point fear as the libertarian quoted.

When government wants to come onto my private property and put electronic tags on my assets, organic or nonorganic, it is time to start yelling foul. We already have insurance identification of our assets. We already have to give written descriptive identifications to the IRS. But electronic libraries of information on movement, history, etc? Fine, you want to put those tags on those assets the minute they are off my property and headed towards the public--do it. Do it at the auction yard though rather than forcing me to tag my assets for the government to follow on my private property.

I feel like I should beat on my chest after that paragraph! I have shades of my libertarian grandmother bellowing at the tax collector popping up before my eyes.

Yet, neanderthalism aside, this is just a little too invasive to begin with and the legal precedent I believe this might establish hits just a little too close to home. Leering in the background of my mind is Obama's push for nationalized health records. There is a parody here I wish I had time to develop. I see the insurance claims adjustor in the slaughterhouse sharpening his knives while inspecting our personal health records for deficiencies so they can rescind more claims.

Now I am not senseless. I get the arguments for both. But at some point quality of life for individuals has to be addressed. Unfortunately Congress appears to have forgotten to have anything except small little chit-chats on privacy as technology has given corporations and governments the opportunity to steam-roll the individual and cut the costs of oversight. I am not convinced anyone is in charge of the big concept of individual privacy issues any longer.

Thank you very much. I'd like to keep the government outside my house unless I am suspected of wrong-doing. I like the rule of law. The idea of innocent until proven guilty works for me. The idea of "tracking-you-in-case-you-screw-up" isn't something I want to promote or see gain a toehold. Particularly little neck-hair-raising is the fact of entrusting the current Supreme Court to knock-down this toehold if and when any challenge gets under their gavels. Basically this cow tagging affair is a far reaching, precedent establishing, and rather scary efficiency concept that should never be tested in my view. Common sense people!

I cannot help but think that the economy of scale efficiency of mass production has been misapplied in some cases. What is good for the gander isn't always good for the goose so to speak. Diffusion and redistribution of consolidating industries back into the hands of master craftspeople happens with high end products like woodworking, jewelry, soaps and lotions, and even designer clothing. The finished goods then command speciality prices from the higher income groups and are frequently serviced by corporate marketing and distribution services. So why can't a return to specialization work within our own communities for commodities like basic foods, watershed management, and healthcare? Six sigma value on a local scale managed by the community served. Local jobs will be created and a lot of small business ownership could be expanded.

If these industries, like JBS, are growing too large and/or too politically powerful to manage wouldn't local solutions using standardized plans (read as: No corruption for the "good o'boys" on the local level--they have to follow established plans) establish a less politicized and more pragmatic accountability system?

Of course the voters would actually have to do the homework and understand they need to elect local officials with good brains rather than good hair. That could be a problem. But I always have hope.

This isn't a tag system for the cattle. It is a tag system for the cattle ranchers. Put the tags on at the gate to the slaughterhouse auction. If a rancher wants to use a tagging system to track assets on his/her own property then he/she should have that choice. Leave the farming practices to the human beings that specialize in it and the accountability to the local communities they serve and live in. Go tag the State Highway signs that always get stolen and taxpayers have to pay to replace with GPS signals and keep better track of government property. Go track that $900 government hammer. A much better use for technology with less impact on our individual right to privacy from my viewpoint.

Your thoughts?

Rebellion on the Range Over a Cattle ID Plan - NYTimes.com
HORSE SPRINGS, N.M. — Wranglers at the Platt ranch were marking calves the old-fashioned way last week, roping them from horseback and burning a brand onto their haunches.
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The New York Times

The Platt ranch covers 22,000 acres in western New Mexico.

What they were emphatically not doing, said Jay Platt, the third-generation proprietor of the ranch, was abiding by a federally recommended livestock identification plan, intended to speed the tracing of animal diseases, that has caused an uproar among ranchers. They were not attaching the recommended tags with microchips that would allow the computerized recording of livestock movements from birth to the slaughterhouse.


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