Daily Archives: October 10, 2003

Why Deregulation Is a Crock

Deregulation is always reminding us why the regulations exist in the first place.

From the NYT:

Government inspectors monitoring the automated processing line at the Shapiro Packing meat plant here over the past three years repeatedly discovered sides of beef mottled with cattle manure, a host for bacteria that can be deadly to consumers.Last November the inspectors also found E. coli O157:H7, a dangerous bacterium spread by cattle waste, in hamburger and stopped a shipment waiting to go to public schools from a Shapiro meat-grinding facility. Yet the Department of Agriculture delayed more forceful action and never did more than threaten to shut the packing plant down.

The history of recurring violations at the Shapiro plant illustrates the weaknesses in a new food safety system that the department phased in nationwide from 1998 to 2000, say consumer groups, critics in Congress and some government inspectors.

Critics say the department’s inspection arm, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, has been lax in enforcing safety procedures under the new program, even at plants with repeated violations.

Government audits, interviews with current and former inspectors and a close look at some of 113 meat recalls last year — a record number — show that the inspection service has been slow to establish guidelines for dealing with repeat offenders and has done a poor job of training its inspectors, leaving many uncertain when to take action.

You know, for about 50 years, since muckraker Upton Sinclair took on the food-packing plants in Chicago and forced a laissez-faire, business-oriented govt to clean up the mess that was killing people, we didn’t have to worry that shit was–literally–contaminating our food. But since Reagan began the process of dismantling those regulatory protections saying, “No business would ever endanger its own customers”, we’ve had episode after episode of just that. This is only the latest.

The corporate-driven, obligingly media-regurgitated mythology that “regulations” are onerous burdens piled onto thrifty, safe, consumer-friendly industries by rule-happy bureaucrats for no other reason than the spite and jealousy of the poor for the rich has been systematically depriving us of protections we used to take for granted and that others gave their lives to put in place. The protections that were once consumer-oriented are now business oriented–we protect them from lawsuits when their bottom-line decisions hurt or kill; we protect them from having to pay to clean up their own messes; we protect them from having to pay taxes like the rest of us; we protect them from having to tell the truth about their shoddy products, and on and on and on–and for the sake of… “jobs”, they tell us, but really for the sake of the size of their investor dividends…we are less safe now from predatory corporate practices than at any time since the turn of the last century.

If your job kills–either you or others–is it worth having? Maybe not, but when everybody’s doing it, we have little choice if we want to eat.

One of the immeasurably positive and effective roles govt has had for the last 100 years is protecting its citizens from the illness and even death that result from the unholy worship of frogskins (what Native Americans call money), an adulation that recognizes no virtue absent profit, no responsibility absent force, and no shame absent monetary distress. In the name of “efficiency” or “saving jobs” or “improving our economy”, we’ve allowed ourselves to become targets once again, cannon-fodder on the cut-throat business battlefield. We are trading our health for corporate health, and it’s a bad bargain.

I’ve been reading stories like this for 20 years, and they get worse every year. This company is flirting with bringing the scourge of mad cow disease to our shores for the sake of corporate profits, and the FSIS inspectors aren’t sure what action to take? The situation has apparently devolved to such an extent that positing a wholly-corporate-owned govt is the only thing that would explain it.

At long last, have we had enough yet?

Iraq Lies

One of my favorite columnists, Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, settles the question of whether or not we can believe that the Bush Admin lied or distorted the facts about Iraq:

Did Bush officials exaggerate and distort prewar evidence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? Or were they, like the rest of us, simply the victims of poor intelligence work by the CIA and other agencies?The answer is important. Incompetence is one thing; a conscious decision by our top leaders to deceive us into war would be far more troubling. And getting to the truth will be difficult as long as Republican leaders in Congress refuse to conduct a full-scale investigation into the question.

Fortunately, there are other ways to gauge the decision-making process in the Bush administration. The most obvious proof that Bush officials hyped and distorted evidence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in the past is that they continue to hype and distort that evidence today, with a shamelessness that is stunning.

He goes on to give a cogent example:

However, rather than admit the undeniable truth, Bush and others have tried to magically transform it. If you believe their version of the story, the fact that we have found no WMD in Iraq — and no WMD programs — is of little or no importance. In fact, they argue that the Kay report actually vindicates their claim that Saddam posed an imminent danger to the region and the world. It seems they were right all along.Uh huh. And the Braves are going to win the World Series this year.

This is precisely how a discredited forgery about enriched uranium is transformed into proof that Iraq is building a nuclear weapon. This is how CIA dismissals of a link between Saddam and Osama bin Laden — dismissals backed by investigation and expert analysis — are made to disappear because they inconveniently contradict policy. This is how hype, exaggeration and distortion can be used to alter reality, right out where everyone can see it.

Indeed. As it is, so it was.

How long can they keep it up, you figure? Long enough to steal the next election?

And how is it that people can’t see something this obvious? I mean, come on: a 10-year-old vial of Botox in the refridgerator of a scientist is proof that Hussein was a dangerous maniac who was a clear-and-present threat to the world? They can be as blatant at that, and we still don’t want to believe what we’re dealing with: fantasist radical extremists with a faith-based approach to facts: “If we believe it, it’s true even if it isn’t. Facts aren’t facts, they’re…suggestions. And they mean what we say they mean.”

Jay has it exactly right: It’s easy to believe they did it before because they’re still doing it.

Poppy v Junior: Eerie

Wampum, a blog I like a lot, has a post with a number of quotes from news articles in 1991, when Poppy was getting ready to run for the 2nd time. The similarities between then and now are just plain eerie.

Scroll down to the entry for Thurs, Oct 2 and read.

Change the names of the players and you could run them again in tomorrow’s Times.

O, California, What Have You Done To Us? (III)

So Junior’s running off to have his picture taken at a stand-up with the Movie Star. Priceless. The Man With the Golden Gun and The Man With the Golden Fund. The Terminator and the Toy Soldier. Godzilla and Tinky-Winky. And the thing is, Ahnud the Magnificent, the Glorious, the Terminal Ignoramus has already got the Great Warrior boxed in, but good.

Ahnud plans to ask El Presidente for help from the Bushie Feds: he wants Junior to cough up some Treasury money to bail CA out of the mess it’s gotten itself into (with some major help from Enron and the Texas Energy Gang).

This puts L’il Georgie in a Big-Time Bind; he has bluntly and without ceremony turned down every other Governor, R or D, who’s done likewise (and the whole National Gov’s Conference did just that in a body only last year) with just 4 words: “We can’t afford it.” Only just now it happens he’s asking for mucho dinero for Iraq (which is not yet, contrary to the impression you might be getting from All The President’s Men, the 51st state) and is forced to hawk the used-to-be-anti-conservative line that deficits are Good For America (Fall-Back Position: Deficits Aren’t Bad for America).

I gotta admit, it’s an impressive move for the inexperienced Ahnud. Junior’s pet pit-bull, Karl the King-Maker, is the one who used Issa to arrange this little coup in an attempt to put usually-heavily-Demo CA back in play for 2004, and Junior has delusions of grandeur–if Ahnud can help him take CA, the election is over and the 2nd term (the one they’re going to use to coronate him) is in the bag. But if he doesn’t give Ahnud the money he needs to look good, then a) Ahnud likely won’t be in a position to help him, and b) he’ll be carrying the blame for CA’s sinking further into the tar pit all on his lonesome while the Governator sits in a neutral corner pointing the finger.

Pretty, ain’t it? You think Ahnud has any idea what he’s about to do? And will he back off when they explain it to him?

[[FWIW, My Guess: 1) No. 2) Yes.]]

But it was almost beautiful.