Friday, March 05, 2010

Blumenthal And The Farmer’s Rebellion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is also running for U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat in the congress, appears to be stepping away from a measure he supported banning wood furnaces following an announcement that The Connecticut Farm Bureau Association based in Windsor opposes the outright ban, according to a story in the Norwich Bulletin.

The Bulletin reported, “Blumenthal softened his stance after Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, who is vice chairman of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee, pledged to work for stricter regulations short of an outright ban.”

Members of the New London Farm Bureau Association, 691 strong, want bill 126, which they oppose, to be fast-tracked. The bureau feels that farmers, according to the story, “must defend the general public against economic hardship that would result from the bill’s enactment. The bill contains an exemption for farmers, but the farmers are fighting it anyway.”

It is doubtful that the farmers will march on the state Capitol armed with pitchforks to defend themselves from Connecticut’s quick on the draw attorney general and a usually obliging legislature.

However, stranger things have happened in times of overweening government. Farmers have long memories, and some still recall with pride the farmer’s rebellion led by Daniel Shays in western Massachussets.

A captain the the Revolutionary army, Shays led a march on the state supreme court in Springfied, preventing that august body from issuing foreclosures and debt collections. Shays later led a march of 1,200 men in an attack on the nearby federal arsenal that was repulsed by troops. As a result of Shay’s direct action, Massachussets enacted laws easing the economic condition of debtors.

It is supposed that in the present case such a rebellion will not be necessary to force Blumenthal, affectionately known among some of his critics as the Caligula of Connecticut , to beg off, leave the farmers alone and concentrate on his senatorial campaign.

2 comments:

Fuzzy Dunlop said...

Don,
Even a broke clock is right twice a day... I agree that wood burning, when done reasonably, is fine and everyone has a right to do so on their property (I use my fireplace most nights). However, you also have a right against having your property invaded by a nuisance, namely, noxious smoke from a beighbor's wood burning stove.

The odd thing, is that if this was a political calculation for Dick, it was a very bad one. Most people don't realize that wood burning stoves, at least the ones the AG is worried about, actually are a disgusting health hazard. Instead, when people hear about Dick Blumenthal fighting wood burning stoves, they imagine California's ban on fireplaces or banning the quaint small wood burning stoves in many New England houses. Perception is everything, and Dick might as well have said he was against the Christmas spirit. So I somehow wonder if his actions are purely political on this issue.

Rights talk is dangerous. Often times, claiming someone has a "right" to do something means that a corresponding right of someone else is abrogated. Smoking cigarettes is a good example. Someone might say they have a right to smoke. After all, it's their body. But in public, don't I have a corresponding right to be free of second hand smoke and the deadly carcinogens contained within it? Or, take talking on cell phones while driving. "I have a right to talk on my cellphone while driving" someone says. That's fine if your the only person on the road. But don't me and my family have a right to drive on the highway without the risk of being hit by a distracted driver?

The bottom line is, this isn't Dick Blumenthal's all out assault on fun. In many instances larger wood burning fireplaces pose a public nuisance, and a serious discussion of their regulation is required. And fighting public nuisance is certainly the prerogative of the Attorney General. To be quite honest, if I lived next to someone using one of these wood pellet burners and the smoke was hanging low over my property, I would seriously consider bringing a common law nuisance suit against them for interference with my right to enjoyment of my property.

Don Pesci said...

Fuzzy,

I'm having a little fun with this one. The whole problem probably could and should be settled through zoning regulations. In that case, problems and solutions could be more narrowly tailored to specific circumstances. Hell, the zoning folk might be able to settle disputes between farmers and residential folk by making a proposal that satisfies both parties. It’s happened. This is a federalist notion – problems are best settled at the least noxious governmental level – that would deprive Blumenthal of his horse and white hat, and much of his media mystique. But Blumenthal is in the habit of suing the whole state into compliance with his dubious and destructive regulations, then insisting – such chutzpa! – that his suits facilitate business activity. The same is true of consumer protection; the legislature that wrote up the statutes governing consumer protection may possibly have envisioned the attorney general’s office as a consumer protection enforcer; the statutes provide that his office is supposed to represent the interests of state agencies. None of the statutes envision Blumenthal’s office to act as a consumer protection agency, and this happens more often than it should when actionable complaints come directly to his office; or worse, when he goes trawling for them. That office is completely out of control. I can and have pointed to cases in which affidavits used in exparte proceedings to deprive businesses of their assets have been defective. That is unconscionable -- to use an expression often used by Blumenthal in his contrived press releases. And I’m just sitting here wondering why the same media facilitators who fret over Linda McMahon’s highly scripted and contrived three ring wrestling matches ain’t worried about this.