In a story that would be touching in the ordinary context, an 88 year old man and his 85 year old girlfriend built a portable water purification business from a dream to a reality. Nothing wrong there; such things are supposed to be part of the American Dream.

But now, their business is being ruined by one of the most unaccountable and tyrannical bureaucracies in the history of government, the DEA:

88-year-old Bob Wallace, and his 85-year-old girlfriend, Marjorie Ottenberg fell in love 35 years ago backpacking to the tops of the highest peaks in the world.

Wallace is a Stanford educated engineer and Ottenberg is a former chemist and decades ago they came up with a water purification product for backpackers like themselves called Polar Pure out of their garage in Saratoga, Calif.

“For an old guy with nothing else to do, this is something that keeps us occupied,” says Wallace.

Today, Wallace and Ottenberg are fighting the Drug Enforcement Administration and state officials to continue to operate their business. Why? The DEA says that drug dealers are using their product to make methamphetamine.

The DEA says meth heads are interested in Polar Pure’s key ingredient, iodine crystals.

Too lazy to go after the meth heads, they have to go after perfectly legitimate business, destroying the dream of two honest elderly Americans. You don’t have to be opposed to the Drug War to be opposed to such tyranny.

Wallace and Ottenberg’s business will of course be ruined, because they cannot possibly comply with the laws demands that they pay huge regulatory fees, plus “register with the state and feds, report any suspicious activity and keep track of each and ever person who bought a bottle of their product.”  Nor can their customers, which included camping stores and online outlets that stocked their product. They are being wiped out, and the DEA dismissively calls this “collateral damage”:

Instead of dealing with the new regulations they just dropped the product, effectively killing Wallace and Ottenberg’s business.

“Any time you deal with a government it’s a hassle,” says Ottenberg.

A spokeswoman for the DEA told the San Jose Mercury News that Wallace was “collateral damage.”

I suppose I could ask just what provision of the Constitution gives the DEA the power to shut down dealers in iodine. After all, I ask these questions all the time.

To no avail. We are no longer governed, but we are ruled. This government is monstrous. It no longer resembles what the founders envisioned, and very few people care. Those who do are ridiculed as cranks.

OK, so I’m a crank. I admit it. But that does not make me wrong. The DEA is operating outside of constitutional parameters so routinely that it has become a law unto itself.

And I don’t just mean asserting the power to regulate anything it wants. One of the hallmarks of tyranny is the detention of citizens without a hearing.

And more.

Representative Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) sent a letter to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart asking the agency to comply with an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the detention of 23-year-old Daniel Chong. The UC San Diego engineering student was arrested during a drug raid, interrogated for four hours, then locked in a holding cell and left there for five days without food, water, or access to a toilet.

During those five days, Chong was forced to drink his own urine. Fearing that he would die in the cell, he broke the lens of his glasses and attempted to carve a message to his mother on his arm using a shard. Chong then tried to commit suicide by swallowing the broken pieces of his eye glasses. He was discovered unconscious and covered in feces, and admitted to a San Diego hospital suffering from dehydration, kidney failure, and a punctured esophagus.

Got that? The DEA held a suspect for five days and nearly tortured him to death. This is the United States?

And how about the severely injured woman who, after surgery for a shattered knee cap, went to the drug store to fill a perfectly legitimate pain killer prescription, and found herself hauled away:

The pharmacy called Lenhart to ask her exactly what time she would be in pick up her prescription. She thought it was odd, but told the pharmacy what time she would be there.

Still on crutches and unable to drive, a friend of Lenhart’s, drove her to a CVS Pharmacy in Oak Cliff.

She wasn’t able to pick up her prescription because a police officer arrived to pick her up.

“He was like ‘we need to go outside,’” she said. “I was on crutches and I had a permanent IV line in my arm. I had a big leg brace. I asked him if it was necessary and he said yes and he rather policingly escorted me out the front door and into the back of a waiting patrol car.”

Never mind that it was another bureaucratic mistake. This severely injured woman spent the night in jail.  After she was finally released on bond, she was charged with a felony.

The DEA, of course, is behind this racket too. They have unconstitutionally delegated to themselves authority to regulate every prescription for every controlled substance sold in every pharmacy in the United States, and as Radley Balko explains in his analysis of the case, pharmacists and doctors live in terror of them:

These idiots couldn’t even bother to call the woman’s doctor before tossing her in a jail cell.

Lenhart’s story has been making its way around the web the past few days, and has been generating the appropriate outrage. But it shouldn’t be all that surprising. This is the perfectly predictable outcome of all this painkiller hysteria of late. It’s bad enough coming from the usual drug warriors. But because there’s a big evil pharmaceutical corporation to play the villain, we now get progressive outlets like ProPublica, and Alternet and Salon spitting out the government’s hype without the least bit of skepticism—or concern for pain patients.

You can’t really blame the pharmacist, here. She risks arrest and criminal prosecution if some overeager prosecutor looking to make a name for himself decides she hasn’t been sufficiently suspicious of her customers. Think about that. The government will now throw you in jail for failing to be suspicious enough of your fellow citizens. (And not just with painkillers — remember this monstrous injustice?)

Don’t blame her employer, either. The DEA recently shut down two CVS stores in Florida because federal drug cops thought the stores should have been turning away more people who came to fill pain medication prescriptions. Not only that, the agencies also attempted to shut down the wholesaler who supplies those stores for not being sufficiently suspicious of them, a move that would have left thousands of patients in several states without access to the medication they need.

The government has created a poisonous, paranoid atmosphere in which every player in the painkiller process from manufacturer to patient has been deputized to police every other player, to the point where anyone who doesn’t continually question the motives and actions of everyone else risks losing his livelihood, or even his freedom.

Yes, and that includes 88 year old water purifiers.

Collateral damage? How far does it go?

MORE: I have to say, it never occurred to me that I might someday be InstaLanched by Sarah. (who is guest blogging for Glenn Reynolds). I consider this to be proof that anything is possible.

Thank you, dear, dear Sarah Hoyt.

Comments welcome, agree or disagree.