December 1, 2010

Food Tyranny Bill: MSM Anodyne Propaganda (Et tu, Pollan and Schlosser?)


This was brought to my attention in comments, and since I was already mulling another post on this food bill, I turned my reply into a post.
See what I miss when I mostly stop reading the NYT? Not that this is surprising. Are the likes of Pollan and Schlosser really transformationists, or are they just among the “better” of liberal reformists? We know the answer. The title sounds familiar: “A Stale Food Fight”. I’ve previously written about Obama’s preference for epithets like “tired debate” (regarding offshore drilling, just a few weeks before the explosion) and “false political debates” over globalization. The same globalization Pollan champions in this piece. Are they all reading off some liberal version of a Luntz memo? Is that where they’re all getting this anti-democratic language?
Sure enough, here they are in “reasonable” mode between the extremists on both sides. (I always love when liberals lump us in with Glenn Beck.)

The agency would finally have the resources and authority to prevent food safety problems, rather than respond only after people have become ill.

The agency already had vast inspection authority and simply refused to use it. The Pollan-type reformists never explain why the new regulations (to be enforced, of course, by the same old regualtors) will be enforced in a way the old ones weren’t. (It’s just like Krugman where it comes to regulation of Wall Street and health insurance, although by now I’m convinced Krugman is a conscious criminal himself. But it’s the same false logic.)
It really seems like, to a certain do-gooder mentality, passing a “new” rule seems like some magic talisman which will compel good behavior from the exact same people who refused to obey or enforce the old rule.
That type of liberal is congentially incapable of understanding the concept that there are those who will refuse to obey or enforce any rule, period.
Here’s the only part which sounded new to me:

The bill would also require more frequent inspections of large-scale, high-risk food-production plants.

No one I’ve seen, including advocates, said any such thing about “requirements”.
Everything I’ve seen was along the lines of the first quote I gave above: The FDA will have more discretion, which is of course exactly what small producers fear and big producers love. (BTW, most of the managers’ amendments which are supposed to lessen the effect on small producers are also “discretionary” for the FDA. They suggest this and that, but don’t require it.)
Where it comes to both small and big producers, we’ve already seen where the FDA’s “discretion” is prone to lead.
But from his ivory tower Pollan assures us that lifelong Monsanto cadres like FDA Food Czar Michael Taylor will now be conscientious about their public trust, because Congress passed a new law!
Yeah, I’m sure that’s how it will work.

Last summer, when thousands of people were infected with salmonella from filthy, vermin-infested henhouses in Iowa, Americans were outraged to learn that the F.D.A. had never conducted a food safety inspection at these huge operations that produce billions of eggs a year. The new rules might have kept those people — mainly small children and the elderly — from getting sick.

The old rules, if they’d been enforced, could have kept those people from being sick. Again Pollan fails to explain what’s so magical about the new rules.

The law would also help to protect Americans from unsafe food produced overseas: for the first time, imported foods would be subject to the same standards as those made in the United States.

Pollan inadvertently gives away more than he means. The reader can see the Orwellian double meaning of the sentence as written, and indeed all the evidence is that the bill’s globalization measures are intended to lessen safety, increase the amount of imported food (directly contrary to all sustainability goals*), and increase the anti-sovereign power of globalization cadres over our domestic food supply.
We’ve been doing this for decades now. We know how globalization works. Why is Pollan playing dumb here? Is he really that stupid, or is he being malicious?
[*I’ve never seen this Pollan before, Pollan as globalization champion. Suddenly he’s an enemy of relocalization and sustainability as such.
Suddenly he wants more imported foods, and celebrates this bill for extending that paradigm, while local food advocates are relegated to the ghetto with Glenn Beck.
So the mask comes off. It’s like I’ve said a hundred times – every liberal is, deep down, exactly the same elitist sellout.]
Pollan also lies about the food recall provision. He gets some cover because he’s able to cite Coburn telling a lie of his own:

[T]he government doesn’t need mandatory recall power because “not once in our history have we had to force anyone to do a recall,” and that the annual cost of the new food safety requirements — about $300 million — is prohibitively expensive.

Last year, at the height of a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands, spread via tainted peanut butter, the Westco Fruit and Nuts company refused for weeks to recall potentially contaminated products, despite requests from the F.D.A.

The facts here are that the government could not previously mandate recalls, but has strong-armed small producers into doing so anyway. Most recently it “requested” that Morningland Diary issue a recall, and then illegally announced the recall on its own, fraudulently claiming Morningland had already issued the recall.
As Pollan knows perfectly well, the FDA has never shown any such exuberance in jumping the gun where it comes to its feeble “requests” to big companies like Westco.
Again, Pollan seems to have performed some ritual where the entrails told him this bill will cause a complete 180 degree reversal in the FDA’s attitude. The FDA, granted mandatory recall authority, will use it against the same big malefactors it previously refused to even inspect, while it will suddenly play fair in good faith with the same small producers it previously bullied, terrorized, and extorted.

Those legitimate concerns have been addressed in an amendment, added by Senator Jon Tester of Montana, that recently was endorsed by a coalition of sustainable agriculture and consumer groups. But now that common sense has prevailed, the bill is under fierce attack from critics — egged on by Glenn Beck and various Tea Partyers, including some in the local food movement — who are playing fast and loose with the facts.

The Tester amendment is a bone of contention. The form in which it was included is not the original strong form, but a watered-down version. It doesn’t seem to have changed anyone’s minds among sustainable food or Food Sovereignty advocates. Those whose support was contingent upon inclusion of the Tester amendment continued to support it, while those who were opposed stayed opposed. (Whether or not groups like the NSAC who claimed their support was contingent upon inclusion of a Tester amendment would actually have withdrawn support in the absence of  it, I don’t know. My default is to be highly suspicious of such contingent endorsements. We saw what happened with the “Progressive Block” scam.)
The only group which changed its tune were the racket groups who had supported the non-Testerized bill, but opposed it with inclusion of Tester’s amendment. I don’t know immediately whether they really fear it as too strong for their purposes, or if it’s just pique on account of their deranged sense of entitlement, that they take the inclusion of any such amendment as an insult.
Let’s not forget that however good the Tester amendment is or isn’t, and however much better the Senate bill is than the House version, they still have to be conferenced. Supporters like the NSAC think the House will simply rubber-stamp the Senate version, but I’m not sure why. We’ve seen with the health racket bailout and the sham finance bill how in both cases the conference was used to strip out all the better parts and make the bad parts worse.
I’m not sitting here in a state of total pessimism about this bill. For it to do its worst will require the FDA to be far more aggressive, and against a much vaster range of small producers, than it has been so far. The persecution of the raw milk community was meant to serve as the template, but a broad-based assault on small producers and distributors as such, at the same time food relocalization is blossoming into a full-scale movement, will be politically far more difficult.
But here, as everywhere else, the measure of how difficult will be in direct proportion to our willingness to resist, reject, and fight back. We’ll need to undertake direct action as producers and distributors, in an exact parallel with Gandhi’s great Salt March. And the broader populace needs to support these food efforts, economically and politically.
Maybe we can even come up with the political judo to turn this to our advantage. People are already willing to buy local for so many other reasons. The more we can add persecution to the list, the more of an imperative supporting this movement must seem. Remember how the German people reacted in 1933 to the new Hitler regime’s call for a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. The people not only disregarded the boycott but often went out of their way to patronize those stores, despite the frequent presence of intimidating Brownshirt picketers. After a few days Hitler had to admit the boycott was a failure and call it off. We’ll see if the corporatist government is really going to attempt something similar against food relocalization. 


  1. A few months ago, when I first started hearing about this bill and some of the breathless claims being made about it, I tracked down the actual language that was causing the greatest outrage, and I found the complaints unwarranted.

    I think, however, that your critique nails it: the real problem is granting more discretion to a regulatory body that has been captured by the largest firms in the industry it is supposed to regulate. It may well be that nothing sprouts from this action for perhaps a decade, but when the small producers create enough of a market in locally grown produce, the corporate monopolists will germinate the seed they’ve planted in this bill and employ the FDA to shut down and/or devalue the local firms so they can be swallowed up at a lower price.

    There may be many other valid criticisms about the bill, but I don’t feel that I need to confirm them by reading it.** Why? Because the Chamber of Commerce endorses the bill, which allegedly increases regulation in the interest of consumer protection. Since when has the Chamber of Commerce been pro-regulation and pro-consumer protection? Uh, that would be never.

    Turning to your criticisms of Michael Pollan, it is difficult to understand where he’s coming from. He may have always been a corporate shill and never a liberal reformer. Or he may be the Robert Reich of food policy (talk about elitist). Or he may just be a useful idiot. The point is we live in an age where hero worship is the first step towards unwitting servitude, as the “hero” almost never completes his journey, almost always gives into temptation. Pollan has become something of a hero in some corners, and the fact that he is speaking so authoritatively on the food bill, something which his CV indicates is well beyond his credentials, tells me that has joined a propaganda campaign to quell the fears of his worshippers.

    Turning to the “two sides” frame, can’t we be done with it already? What I’m seeing right now is at least three sides. First, we have the “right,” which believes that government never works and unwittingly fetishizes corporate tyranny as a public benefit. Second, we have the “left,” which believes that government always works and unwittingly fetishizes government tyranny as a public benefit. Finally, we have a growing group of people who understand that big business and big government are actually one and the same, and who know that the system must be changed fundamentally if we are to avoid a return to a new form of pre-Enlightenment feudalism. The fact is, the biggest service we can do for our growing movement is to open the eyes of the so-called “left” and the so-called “right” to the fact that big government and big business are the same thing, that both “sides” are supporting policies that tighten the noose around their freedom by pursuing it. What they’re doing is the political equivalent of auto-erotic asphyxiation that is sure to go wrong, leaving the body politic swinging pathetically from the closet door, the belt of liberty cinched tightly around its neck. All of us need to get past the polarization and bunker mentality that has been forced on us by the dominant, normative narrative.

    **I always like to go to the source and form my own opinion. Trust but verify.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — December 1, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

    • I agree, Chamber of Commerce support is dispositive. It may be possible to be a bedfellow with Glenn Beck, but not with the Chamber, which is paid way too much to take wayward or mistaken positions.

      As for planting the seed, that’s what everyone in the movement thinks the raw milk persecution is about. It’s the template, as I and many others called it (as in the post I linked above).

      I don’t know what Pollan’s problem is. In the absence of further evidence, I’ll take it as moral collapse. He collapsed into the “I’d better grab whatever crumbs I can!” mindset so common among the “real progressives”.

      (Although the fact that he adheres to the MSM establishment “stale food fight between two extremes” propaganda is evidence of more malicious intent.)

      It doesn’t really matter, compared to the fact you mentioned: We need once and for all to break free of this stupid dreaming about progressive heroes who will descend from within the system to save us. The Warren cult is just the most extreme version of it.

      News flash: If these persons really wanted to be leaders of and for the people, they wouldn’t still be temporizing within the system. They’d be doing it.

      (And of course those who look to Fox news demagogues as saviors are doing the same thing.)

      We have to understand once and for all, the only ones who are going to fight for the people are we the people ourselves. Any real leaders are going to come only from the bottom up.

      Great image of the hanged polity. That’s exactly right. The hangman is the entire system. That’s the core of the scam, that there’s any differentiation within.

      The old political spectrum means nothing. By now it’s a fraud. And the alleged government-business conflict was always a fraud.

      They are collaborators in the same great crime, and the only spectrum which matters is the spectrum relative to this criminal nexus.

      It runs from democratic to elitist.

      The real battle lines over this bill and issue, as for every other issue, are drawn according to that great struggle.

      Comment by Russ — December 1, 2010 @ 12:47 pm

      • Here’s an article on the current status of the bill, along with some of its proponents/funders: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22236

        Comment by tawal — December 3, 2010 @ 3:20 am

      • That’s a good summary. It would be comical how these goons were so precipitate in their greed and arrogance that they blithely stuck fund-raising provisions in the thing, if so much weren’t at stake.

        I wish I knew how to get the word out at a broader level:

        1. Industrial production and distribution poses the real threat and is responsible for all significant outbreaks.

        2. In particular, factory farms must be banned completely.

        3. Short of (2), existing regulation, if enforced, would be sufficient to deal with all other threats.

        4. We don’t need new laws.

        5. The best way to render the food system more safe, in every way, is to decentralize agriculture.

        6. Since the new law does nothing to help toward food safety, but on the contrary seeks to render every aspect of it worse, we know that the purpose of the new law is NOT “food safety”, but something else.

        7. This something else is to further the exact corporate concentration which generates all the problems.

        8. More broadly, this whole issue and the bill must be placed in the broader context of the corporate war against the one and only obstacle to total domination it faces – economic relocalization.

        This bill is an assault on democracy and economic freedom.

        It’s exactly the same fight as the fight against the big banks, against Walmart, and against every other kind of corporate racket.

        Comment by Russ — December 3, 2010 @ 4:03 am

  2. All I can say is “Amen” ,Russ. Economic relocalization is the key to most of our current troubles, IMO.

    This was a post I was actually able to completely comprehend 🙂

    Comment by DualPersonality — November 11, 2011 @ 10:14 pm

    • Thanks DP! That means I wrote better in this one.

      Comment by Russ — November 12, 2011 @ 2:40 am

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