Saturday, May 29, 2010
"Scandalously Close" Relationships
I was listening to the radio yesterday and I heard Obama decry the "scandalously close relationship" between the oil companies and the regulators who were supposed to be keeping them in check. Apparently (surprise, surprise) the inspectors and other regulators enjoyed the gifts and other perks of a happier relationship with those companies, so instead of scrutinizing their activity and preventing risk, they rubber-stamped whatever the companies asked them to and looked the other way so that Big Oil could sell out all of our health and safety for a buck.
I was not the least bit surprised to hear this, but apparently the American public is scandalized. Good! We should be. And let's not limit it to Big Oil. Who else do you think enjoys a similar relationship with regulators and inspectors? Big Pharm, perhaps? Big Agriculture? You think the FDA and the USDA might have a similar pattern of greenlighting whatever they do with a wink and a nod?
Turns out, they do. Drugs with very serious side effects go through the FDA based on half-assed research funded by the drug company itself. It didn't end with Thalidomide. The USDA was itself promoting the practice of cannibalism in cows - that's right, feeding the guts, fat, and other waste of cattle to OTHER CATTLE as cheap filler in feedlots. Did they promote this practice because it's good agriculture? Of course not, it just made a bit more money for the corporations behind the feedlots. Of course, it turned out to cause Crutzfeld-Jakob disease, a very nasty and incurable brain disorder that causes a horrible death in humans who eat the infected meat. But what the hell, money is money.
Did you know that if you switch a corn-fed cow to a grass diet for a mere two weeks before slaughter, you completely remove all traces of E. coli from its system? But over 20,000 people are infected with E. coli every year in this country, and every year several (including many children) suffer death or paralysis from it. The USDA doesn't require a grass diet for cattle, or even finishing on grass, because Big Ag turns a better profit on corn feedlots. Hell, the USDA even prohibits farmers from testing more than 10% of their herd for bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow disease") or E. coli O157:H7 (the deadly strain) - that's right, a farmer who wants to market his meat as safe after testing 100% of his herd was prohibited from doing so by the USDA, because large corporate feedlots couldn't afford the expense of doing same, and it would've been "unfair" competition.
So when you hear the USDA or the FDA carrying on about "safety," think of the oil companies. Think of nice gifts for federal inspectors, the bonuses, the cuddly relationship between our government safety officials and the profit-at-any-human-cost pigs they're supposed to be protecting us from. Think about that murderous gusher pumping thousands of gallons of oil into an ecosystem that may never recover, and livelihood destroyed, and human lives lost because safety officials looked the other way for money. Then think very hard about who you trust to protect you.