Wednesday, April 18, 2007



One of the themes of DWT has been to expose the unadulterated assault-- inspired by a kind of ideological psychosis and in support of unbounded corporate greed-- by the Bush Regime on the regulatory agencies. The very functions of these agencies-- protection of consumers in a mass society-- is anathema to mindless right-wingers. A couple years ago, when Lester Crawford, BushCo's Food and Drug Administration chief, was forced to resign, we noted that even staunchly conservative Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley was relieved, pointing out, diplomatically, that "in recent years, the FDA has demonstrated a too-cozy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry and an attitude of shielding rather than disclosing information."

The grotesque and deadly incompetence brought to light by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath-- a kind of perfect storm scenario that exposed conservative anti-government ideology at its worst and proved why extreme conservatives are unfit to govern-- shed light not just on FEMA but on how the Bush Regime had systematically wrecked the entire machinery of the regulatory agencies.

Good government types, trying to protect consumers, have been thwarted every step of the way by the far right jihad against regulations. Before voters had grown sick enough of the Bush Regime to give congressional power to Democrats, Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman had introduced the Anti-Cronyism and Public Safety Act, which was meant to prohibit Bush from appointing more unqualified individuals to critical public safety positions in the government. It would have required any presidential appointee for a public safety position to have proven, relevant credentials for that position and would have barred from appointment to an agency any individual who has been a lobbyist for an industry subject to the agency's authority during the preceding two years. In a rubber stamp Congress controlled by Bush Regime allies the bill failed, of course, but not before Waxman pointed out that "Bush has handed out some of the country's most difficult and important jobs-- leadership positions in public safety and emergency response-- to politically well-connected individuals with no experience or qualifications. This common sense legislation will end this practice and ensure that public safety is back in the hands of those who are trained and experienced in protecting the public."

The ability of the FDA to protect the food supply has suffered mightily under the Bush Regime-- and by design. Yesterday a friend of mine, Rick Perlstein, started blogging about these kinds of issues at Common Sense with a spectacular first post called E. coli conservatives. I want to recommend it to all DWT readers, especially anyone who is interested in the safety of what they eat and how the Bush Regime has undermined-- with dogged determination-- that safety.
The Associated Press studied the records and found that between 2003 and 2006 the Food and Drug Administration conducted 47 percent fewer safety inspections. FDA field offices have 12 percent fewer employees. Safety tests for food produced in the United States have gone down by three quarters—have almost ground to a halt—in the previous year alone.

What does that mean, in practical terms? Consider the peanut butter.

Factories producing the foods most susceptible to contamination, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, are supposed to be inspected every year. (That's cold comfort to those who ate this year's bad batches of spinach, lettuce, cantaloupes and tomatoes.) Since the last known outbreak of salmonella in peanut butter was in Australia in the 1990s, that puts it in the "low-risk" category; peanut butter factories are inspected only every two to three years.

People started getting sick in February. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control traced the illnesses back to a single plant in Sylvester, Ga. The next day, the FDA arrived for a post hoc inspection (by then 425 people in 44 states had been sickened). Then they covered their own back: "What you saw with the spinach and certainly what you saw with the spinach and certainly what you saw with the peanut butter, is when we see those signals, we're going to act to protect the public health," a spokesman promised.

He was saying: The system worked. In a sense, he was right. This was the system working as it is presently designed. Barn door: closed. Cow: already long gone. That, basically, is as good as it gets in the modern FDA.



At 3:28 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Although one cannot deny that Bush, Jr. has discouraged such agencies' accomplishing their missions, i.e., using their authority and power to protect or advance public safety - his is just a continuing saga of precedent(s) set by the Nixon administration - which was a training ground for Bush's comrades - Cheney, Rummy, and Wolfie.

(Example: During the Nixon-era airliner hijackings, had the Nixon-FAA forced the recommended requirements for secure pilot compartments, the Arabs would not have been able to take over the 9-11 planes with box cutters.)

Specifically, the FDA is an agency gone amuck. It and HHS (and Congress, of course) are simply farm teams for the multinational drug cartel - do them a few favors while feeding at the public trough and "retire" to PHRMA or one of its members.

Ole Lester jumped ship before some of the really interesting questions were asked (or if asked, not made public). Some might have been: (1) Did your familial connections with drug wholesalers influence your official actions? and (2) Did you use your agency connections for "payback" against old competitors or enemies?


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