Thursday, May 24, 2007

Paul Krugman gets it right, as he usually does

PAUL KRUGMAN: Fear of Eating

(Homogenous GOP presidential contenders or e Coli? You make the call.)

Yesterday I did something risky: I ate a salad.

These are anxious days at the lunch table. For all you know, there may be E. coli on your spinach, salmonella in your peanut butter and melamine in your pet’s food and, because it was in the feed, in your chicken sandwich.

Who’s responsible for the new fear of eating? Some blame globalization; some blame food-producing corporations; some blame the Bush administration. But I blame Milton Friedman.

Now, those who blame globalization do have a point. U.S. officials can’t inspect overseas food-processing plants without the permission of foreign governments — and since the Food and Drug Administration has limited funds and manpower, it can inspect only a small percentage of imports. This leaves American consumers effectively dependent on the quality of foreign food-safety enforcement. And that’s not a healthy place to be, especially when it comes to imports from China, where the state of food safety is roughly what it was in this country before the Progressive movement.

The Washington Post, reviewing F.D.A. documents, found that last month the agency detained shipments from China that included dried apples treated with carcinogenic chemicals and seafood “coated with putrefying bacteria.” You can be sure that a lot of similarly unsafe and disgusting food ends up in American stomachs.

Those who blame corporations also have a point. In 2005, the F.D.A. suspected that peanut butter produced by ConAgra, which sells the product under multiple brand names, might be contaminated with salmonella. According to The New York Times, “when agency inspectors went to the plant that made the peanut butter, the company acknowledged it had destroyed some product but declined to say why,” and refused to let the inspectors examine its records without a written authorization.

According to the company, the agency never followed through. This brings us to our third villain, the Bush administration.

Without question, America’s food safety system has degenerated over the past six years. We don’t know how many times concerns raised by F.D.A. employees were ignored or soft-pedaled by their superiors. What we do know is that since 2001 the F.D.A. has introduced no significant new food safety regulations except those mandated by Congress.

This isn’t simply a matter of caving in to industry pressure. The Bush administration won’t issue food safety regulations even when the private sector wants them. The president of the United Fresh Produce Association says that the industry’s problems “can’t be solved without strong mandatory federal regulations”: without such regulations, scrupulous growers and processors risk being undercut by competitors more willing to cut corners on food safety. Yet the administration refuses to do more than issue nonbinding guidelines.

Why would the administration refuse to regulate an industry that actually wants to be regulated? Officials may fear that they would create a precedent for public-interest regulation of other industries. But they are also influenced by an ideology that says business should never be regulated, no matter what.

The economic case for having the government enforce rules on food safety seems overwhelming. Consumers have no way of knowing whether the food they eat is contaminated, and in this case what you don’t know can hurt or even kill you. But there are some people who refuse to accept that case, because it’s ideologically inconvenient.

That’s why I blame the food safety crisis on Milton Friedman, who called for the abolition of both the food and the drug sides of the F.D.A. What would protect the public from dangerous or ineffective drugs? “It’s in the self-interest of pharmaceutical companies not to have these bad things,” he insisted in a 1999 interview. He would presumably have applied the same logic to food safety (as he did to airline safety): regardless of circumstances, you can always trust the private sector to police itself.

O.K., I’m not saying that Mr. Friedman directly caused tainted spinach and poisonous peanut butter. But he did help to make our food less safe, by legitimizing what the historian Rick Perlstein calls “E. coli conservatives”: ideologues who won’t accept even the most compelling case for government regulation.

Earlier this month the administration named, you guessed it, a “food safety czar.” But the food safety crisis isn’t caused by the arrangement of the boxes on the organization chart. It’s caused by the dominance within our government of a literally sickening ideology.


My comment -

Paul Krugman gets it right-on as he usually does. He covered all the bases in the right way.

These anti-government zealots are delusional, if they think the "free market" will protect our safety, health, and environment. The so-called "free market" has only one value: maximum short-term monetary profit for the plutocracy and shareholders.

It should be noted, as someone was saying in a comment at welcometopottersville, jp's blog, that Ayn Rand isn't so bad, that Milton Friedman was a fawning acolyte of hers in his early years.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The wonderful fruits of "free trade" and anti-regulation

Every day we're treated to new news items about discoveries of new food items imported from China containing highly dangerous drugs (such as antibiotics), pesticides, and other chemicals toxic to human health. The latest is farm-raised catfish containing several of these that have serious conseqences for human health, including (according to a report today on "The Loud Dobbs Report") cancer, liver and kidney failure.

The FDA is asleep at the switch, as directed by the Bush administration.

The maleovolent negligence of this speaks for itself.

Why are the bees dying? The best candidate, according to a report on "360" is a new pesticide introduced within the last few years. And which administration was in charge? Bees are essential to 40% of our food crops and they are dying out at an alarming rate.

I hope the shareholders in imported Chinese food and pesticide companies are happy. They might be able to buy a yacht soon and enjoy themselves before they and their children die of god- knows-what affliction.

This is unreal.

I mean it should be the stuff of nightmares, not reality.

January 21, 2009 might be too late, but it can't come too soon.

If people would wake up, these eveildoers would be impeached.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Make your voice heard!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Interesting site -
and interesting article from it -
might be a bit overblown, but perhaps not, and potentially NOT - very much worth covering and watching - especially when the Democrat takes the white house in '09.

"Blueprint for Dictatorship" by Justin Raimondo

Friday, May 04, 2007

Glenn Greenwald and Al Gore

- Read Glenn Greenwald's terrific columns in "Salon" -
050207_The Right's Explicit and Candid Rejection of "The Rule of Law" and 050307_The Politco - Exhibit A For Our Broken Political Press. He nails the mainstream, inside the Beltway, and inside Big Corp MSM, as the lapdogs and superficial gossips they are. Very important columns, especially for the chilling calling out of Authoritarianism - see his May 2 column. I'm going to read The WSJ article to make sure he's accurate, and report back, but I doubt if I'll recant any of my comments here.

- More on Gore: The Larry King "50 Years of Pop Culture" special produced by CNN on tonight reminded me that Gore defended NAFTA to the death with Perot on King's show in '93, and, according to King, who may have some ego in this assertion (but still...) it turned public opinion around FOR NAFTA. Ugh! My estimation of Gore is falling, falling --- see post below (I've taken a month's hiatus).

Edwards is looking better and better to me, and I don't mean the haircut. I'm going to investigate the positions Gore and Edwards (although Gore isn't a candidate) and Clinton and Obama are taking about globalizaton and "free trade" and report back here soon.

This is a preliminary post to be edited, but I wanted to jot this down for whoever to see - that's what blogs are for.

My second comment (letter) to Greenwald's May 3 column in Salon:

Another thought about the vacuity of the chattering class ('journalists") now

Like the commenter on page 1 who cited Gatsby, I wonder if the well-paid journalists Greenwald describes are like a lot of the upper-middle and upper class professionals these days (I surmise). They see the world is getting terminally FUBAR (in their helpless-feeling estimation): global warming, terrorism, rise of regressive religion, the march of globalization generating an elite privleged class and impoverishing the vast majority, craziness on all sides and on all levels, and they think - It's every man (or woman) for him/herself. I'm going to play the game and move the fluff around, making sure I keep my job and invest wisely. Things are scary now - no time to stick your neck out. This cowardly response may be one reason we h