Treating raw milk farmers like whistle blowers in restricting court speech

The prosecutorial crackdown on raw milk in both Canada and the United States doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s part of a larger political context. For example, it’s sometime jarring to see echoes of raw milk trials in reports of such high profile cases as that of Bradley Manning, who is charged in connection with the release of sensitive material to Wikileaks. Reading Chris Hedges account of the legal maneuvering that went into setting the stage for Mannings trial triggered flashbacks of what went down for Vernon Herschberger in Wisconsin recently. Here’s a snippet of Manning’s story, from Truthdig.com:

“FORT MEADE, Md.—The military trial of Bradley Manning is a judicial lynching. The government has effectively muzzled the defense team. The Army private first class is not permitted to argue that he had a moral and legal obligation under international law to make public the war crimes he uncovered. The documents that detail the crimes, torture and killing Manning revealed, because they are classified, have been barred from discussion in court, effectively removing the fundamental issue of war crimes from the trial.

Manning is forbidden by the court to challenge the government’s unverified assertion that he harmed national security. Lead defense attorney David E. Coombs said during pretrial proceedings that the judge’s refusal to permit information on the lack of actual damage from the leaks would “eliminate a viable defense, and cut defense off at the knees.” And this is what has happened.

Manning is also barred from presenting to the court his motives for giving the websiteWikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, and videos. The issues of his motives and potentially harming national security can be raised only at the time of sentencing, but by then it will be too late….”

Read more where that came from, on Truthdig.com  It seems not much news has surfaced about Manning’s trial —  just a few scraps.

Some comparables, from the Herschberger saga: here, here, and here.

I guess what’s surprising about this contrast, or rather lack of contrast between all the restrictions on what couldn’t be said at the Herschberger trial, and what Manning’s defense was reduced to, is the realization that raw milk must be really a big issue for some people if they’re willing to go through all those legal contortions just to try to shut it down. I mean, how can it really matter so much if there’s a small subculture in America, and Canada, who like to drink their milk raw. Europe has been allowing it forever. And it’s still a minority thing over there. Why is whoever it is so paranoid that raw milk is going to grow like wildfire and threaten the pasteurized market share in America? Because what other explanation makes sense?

Interesting that American raw milk author and journalist, David E. Gumpert, is looking at NSA leaker Ed Snowdon as he asks questions about issues of conscience that DATCP people were experiencing, also in connection with the recent Herschberger trial:

“On Friday evening nearly five weeks ago, just as the case against farmer Vernon Hershberger was being handed over to the jury, an employee of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) tapped an attendee at the trial on the shoulder.

That attendee was a known supporter of Hershberger. “Can you get a message to Vernon?” the DATCP employee inquired. “Tell him that, no matter how this turns out, I am praying for him.”

I have intentionally left out the names of the people involved in this situation, since I don’t want to endanger the DATCP person’s job. That individual had made the unfortunate discovery that, when the job involves bullying farmers like Hershberger, it becomes uncomfortable, not only because of the moral and ethical issues it raises, but because of the community disapproval it stimulates. This individual was reacting as most reasonably sensitive people would react–with a sense of guilt and of concern about the harm being done to the target of a three-year enforcement campaign designed to humiliate and punish a decent and hard-working farmer. This DATCP individual had seen Hershberger’s family attending the trial, and developed feelings for them.

I make the comparison in my heading to the National Security Agency whistleblower, Edward Snowden, because he appears to have decided to disclose the vast privacy infringements being carried out by the NSA out of similar feelings of guilt over the harm he was potentially causing to ordinary Americans who are having their most private communications monitored by the world’s largest and most secret intelligence agency. ….”

More on The Complete Patient blog, including a link to an online chapter of David E. Gumpert’s new book “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Food Rights” from Utne Reader. Amazon is taking orders for the book already now. Let’s make it a best-seller!

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