Wednesday, February 11, 2009

US BUSINESSMAN AS TERRORIST: Looking the other way in the predator state

Updated

In the predator state, the bad company led by bad men will literally poison the public. And they won't stop until people are killed. In the predator state system, still that's not even enough to get them dragged from the street.

A year ago Baxter International and another US company it did business with killed people by selling tainted heparin. Heparin is a necessary drug in US medicine and it used to be made here. But in the rush for profits, like many other US businesses, both companies subcontracted their formerly in-house work to China, where there were people willing and malicious enough to deliver a cheaper counterfeit substance, a derivative of chondroitin sulfate, used to mimic heparin. The counterfeit material sickened hundreds and killed a number of people outright. There were news stories and vows of reform. And then nothing happened; it was back to business as usual in the predator state. It was no time to get in the way of commerce!

Today readers have the spectacle of the house hearings in which Peanut Corporation of America's CEO, Stewart Parnell, is seen as willfully urging his employees to get his salmonella-laced peanuts out the door.

"[Parnell] gave instructions to nonetheless 'turn them loose' ... " reports the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. At the time, Parnell was engaged in finding a laboratory that wouldn't return a positive salmonella test, kind of like fishing through a high school bundle of failed exams, looking for the lone good one, the coincidental exception, that could be waved around to show what a diligent student you were.

However, despite making hundreds ill and killing a handful, Parnell's still on the street and the bulldozers haven't been called. Literally, months go by -- sometimes years -- and the US government just will not remove such people.

In the predator state, this is the way things work, or -- don't work.

In the predator state, it is important to look the other way, to pretend to be concerned, but to actually remain indifferent to such things as long as humanly possible. Because to take action would be to interfere with the business of predators, the making of profit at everyone else's expense.

In the predator state, it is critical that attention be diverted from real liabilities to the external menace, potential threats which can even be trumped up in the absence of proof that such things exist in a practical sense. In the case of tainted food and drugs, it has been the radical Islamists under Osama bin Laden who have been passed around as those who would easily poison and contaminate American food and drugs.

Terrorists might put botulism in milk, killing hundreds of thousands. (Read the takedown that had to be mounted to make that one go away, here.)

Terrorists might put anthrax in beef, rice or orange juice. (It was an American, an insider, working from a biodefense lab, who put anthrax in the mail, killing five. But only recently has research on dangerous agents been suspended at the lab where the insider, Bruce Ivins, worked so that the military-run disease house can be internally put in order.)

Osama bin Laden might even poison meals at school!

"Currently, authorities are looking at how a popular lunchroom staple, chicken nuggets, may be susceptible to tampering," wrote the USA Today a few years ago. "Federal officials have distributed a food safety checklist to school lunch providers, who must show evidence of a food safety plan..." (There's additional not so delicious irony in this one since a lot of Peanut Corp. of America's products wound up in foodstuffs sent to schools.)

There have even been countless seminars and security exhibitions on the dangers of terrorists who would attack our food, too. One called the Protect Our Food Expo even furnished PowerPoint slides for DD to put on the web.

"Agroterrorism -- #1 threat is bad news," claimed one such slide.

"Why agricultural targets?" explained another. "It's not about killing cows! [It's] an economic assault on our national security and infrastructure!"

"It's the economy stupid!" screamed yet another. The message was clear. Osama bin Laden, or maybe even some new guy akin to Saddam Hussein, was going to poison food, drugs and animals to kill Americans and damage the economy.

Paradoxically, here's the FDA announcing another public seminar, "Food Protection Workshop," this week. "The goal of this public workshop is to present information that will enable food facilities (such as farms, manufacturers, processors, distributors, retailers, and restaurants) to better comply with the regulations authorized by the Bioterrorism Act, and with food protection guidance, especially in light of growing concerns about food safety and defense," it informs. The agency emphasizes "FDA expects that participation in this public workshop will provide regulated industry with greater understanding of the regulatory and guidance perspectives on food protection and increase voluntary compliance and food defense awareness."

Haw! Haw! Hope for the regulated industry to voluntarily comply.

In the predator state, we're just passive observers to be stepped on, manipulated or ignored. Breathe in the vapors of fear. They will deaden you to what's going on in the repellent food processing company down the street in Blakey, GA, where the employees are so desperate for their jobs they're made complicit bootlickers even as the rotten stuff is moved out the door.

"James Griffin, a cook at [Peanut Corp in Blakey], recounted this simple rule: 'I never ate the peanut butter, and I wouldn't allow my kids to eat it,'" reported the Los Angeles Times last week.

Peanut Corporation's CEO was actually part of an advisory to panel to the US government on peanut quality standards, a position which he's finally been stripped of. This, of course, does nothing to help those who pursued real quality standards and good business practices in the peanut industry. They all get to enjoy the vile exhaust of the predator, because while he has killed people, had a couple of his plants closed and caused products to be taken from shelves and shunned, so has the business of his competitors been put in the trash. This is because it's just not possible, or even practical, for average Americans to keep track of lists of precisely what things with peanuts in them are rotten and which are safe. Better to not eat any of it.

The ugly truth is that if Parnell Stewart or any other of Peanut Corporation's lieutenants had been found to be toadies of Osama bin Laden, they'd have been pulled from their homes in orange suits and flexcuffs with bags over their heads, never to be seen again, weeks ago. But because they're American businessmen, just trying to make a profit, it has been virtually impossible to actually be rid of them in a satisfying manner. Various factories around the country continue to spew tainted peanuts up until the last minute when growing attention compels them to close.

Is there enough outrage to change this? From the historical book, the outcome isn't certain.

Recent history has shown that the most immediate and pressing threats to security and well-being in this country have been those of our making. Greed, an underlying avarice, has been a bigger motivation than terrorism although the end result has been terrorizing.

In the predator state, this is how it is. The agencies tasked with serving the public good have minute budgets, two or three billion, for the FDA. The agencies which serve as a conduit for the transfer of public funding and administrators to the private sector to protect us from the external threat with gadgets and services, like the Department of Homeland Security, are budget whales -- over fifty billion -- in comparison. It is, after all, so critically important to have more and more bioterrorism sensor networks installed around Washington, DC.

Why the difference in resource allocation in the predator state? It's simple, really.

An agency which has as a primary function the granting of funds to industry -- like the Dept. of Homeland Security -- gets a lot more dough than one which is seen as only supposed to be an overseer of American businesses through the watchdogging of food and drugs. Again and again Americans have witnessed the atrophy of the latter. While those which exist to lavish favors to American business, whether or not the grants and funds given out even secure things of value, get inflated to menacing proportion.

While Congress can allocate more resources to FDA and strengthen regulations for food inspection, nothing will change in the predator state until such problems are publicly recognized and addressed. There will always be more Peanut Corporations of America if, for example, an expansion in budget and resources comes with the usual bushel basket of appointees from industry and rules written from the inside of the businesses being watched by the watchdog. There will be no changes if no serious and quick punishments are enabled for those who defy regulation. There will be no change if the bad men aren't shown into the dungeon because, after all, American businesses are the best in the world and no one wants to impede them too much in this time of economic hurt.



The Terrorist takes the fifth

In the predator state, the bad businessman, the one who sickened hundreds, killed a handful and knowingly sent salmonella into the market as long as he could get away with it, can't be thrown in a hole and damned. He can only be excused from a congressional hearing.

But if your skin is dark and you're suspected of being an Islamic terrorist, you can be kidnapped, have a tranquilizing suppository put up your ass, be locked away forever without trial and tortured. Because you could kill us all!

That's how our predator state conducts daily business.

"Summoned by congressional subpoena, the owner of Peanut Corp. of America repeatedly invoked his right not to incriminate himself at the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the salmonella outbreak that has sickened some 600 people, may be linked to nine deaths — the latest reported in Ohio on Wednesday — and resulted in one of the largest product recalls of more than 1,900 items," reported AP a little while ago, rather predictably.

[Stewart Parnell] sat stiffly, his hands folded in his lap at the witness table, as Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., held up a clear jar of his company's products wrapped in crime-scene tape and asked if he would eat them."

"Shortly after Parnell's appearance, a lab tester told the panel that the company discovered salmonella at its Blakely, Ga., plant as far back as 2006," the wire service continued. "Food and Drug Administration officials told lawmakers more federal inspections could have helped prevent the outbreak ..."

"We appear to have a total systemic breakdown," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., in discovering the obvious, that when there's predator state action, nothing is allowed to work for the public good.

There is even more great health news, today, though!

"Human Genome Sciences has begun delivering 20,000 doses of its anthrax treatment to the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile under a deal worth at least $150 million," reports some US business promotional rag.

"We believe ABthrax [vaccine] offers a significant step forward in the treatment of inhalation anthrax and could play an important role in strengthening America's arsenal against bioterrorism," said H. Thomas Watkins, president and CEO of HGS.

"HGS expects to receive $165 million, with $150 million in the first half of 2009, with the balance to come upon Food and Drug Administration licensing of ABthrax."

Bruce Ivins killed five people with mailed anthrax. Peanut Corp. of America has killed four more people than that, so far, and made many many more ill.

And the business terrorist, the one who was on the committee to advise the government on quality stantards for peanuts? Well, he's dismissed from Congressional hearings because he won't talk.

And what do we do to bad people who won't talk? Rhetorical, obviously.




While unrelated, the next item is just one more flabbergasting example of immoral atrocious business in the predator state.

The story: Outsource jail to American businesses, then sentence teenagers guilty of trivial crimes to these jails. Putting kids in the klink for cash money -- in Pennsyltucky.

While a lynch mob might be seen as an appropriate response, one which also burns down the involved jailing businesses, in law and order Pennsy, a prison sentence for the involved jurists will have to do.

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