Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Sunday Night Political Potluck

Take all the leftovers from the last few days, mix them together and serve with toast triangles. You might start by watching Bill Clinton being interviewed by Chris Wallace (for full transcript, go here). A fascinating study on how fighting back is done with spine and erudition, I thought, but the wingnuts just think he went crazy. I liked the way Clinton pointed out what the Fox political theater is all about. You are not supposed to say it even though we all know it. Sort of like calling toilets bathrooms or amenities or restrooms, and probably for the same reason: being honest can provoke embarrassment.

Then there is the classified National Intelligence Estimate which

attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,'' it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, "Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement," cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The flypaper theory gone awry? I read recently a slightly different version of the flypaper theory, one about taking the war to the homeland of the enemy. But I haven't noticed a war against Saudi Arabia, the place which produced most of the 9/11 terrorists. And I haven't noticed any attacks against Pakistan, the country most likely to harbor bin Laden, assuming that he is alive. It makes me feel as if my eyes are going crooked, trying to focus on the logic of this Iraq war: attacking a country which wasn't involved in the 9/11 attacks and then ending up with an Iraq indeed full of terrorists. It's backwards.

You still hungry? I'm going to put a stop to that with something I read about the recent spinach scare:

Federal agents are scurrying across the Salinas Valley -- the nation's "salad bowl" -- in search of the source of the E. coli contaminating the spinach supply. They won't find it without a mirror, because the real culprit in this case is the U.S. government. A half-dozen federal agencies administer a patchwork quilt of outdated standards, inadequate inspections and porous statutes that allow pollution in the fields, filth in the packing houses and contaminated food on the supermarket shelves. Millions of Americans are sickened by food each year; some 9,000 die.

Today American food is more manufactured than grown. Following a scorched-earth approach, workers wearing "spacesuits" inject nerve agents into the soil before planting, leaving nothing alive. Hogs grow enclosed in facilities several stories high. Tomatoes are picked green, gassed and then canned. Writing almost 70 years ago, journalist Carey McWilliams was prescient in his classic work: We now truly do have "factories in the fields." And factories, whether manufacturing steel or frozen peas, generate waste -- in agriculture some 1.4 billion tons per year, 10,000 pounds for each American.

Some of these wastes have a nasty habit of returning in our food. The E. coli in spinach most likely came from the Salinas River or its tributaries, a system of virtual sewers from agricultural runoff and flooding. Since 1995 there have been 20 other E. coli poisonings of spinach and lettuce, eight of them in the Salinas Valley, where nearly every waterway violates national clean-water requirements.

And what is being done about all this? Maybe not very much:

Unlike prescription drugs, food does not go through an approval process. The integrity of the system depends heavily on the agency's inspection force in the food production system. Yet the Food and Drug Administration, with responsibility for all processed food products except meat and poultry, has 1,962 inspectors for more than 100,000 facilities -- a decrease of more than 250 inspectors since 2003. Today food processing plants are inspected on average once every 10 years. Imported food is almost never inspected. The USDA has about 6,000 employees who inspect meat and poultry plants, but use of the inspectors is "not based on the food safety risk of particular products," the GAO says.

The article is by activists so it might be one-sided. But I'd dearly love to know more about the inspection or non-inspection foodstuffs receive, both from the government and through the so-called voluntary market-based initiatives.

Here's the dessert:

If Hillary Rodham Clinton is the Democrats' presidential nominee in 2008, it will motivate conservative evangelical Christians to oppose her more than if the devil himself were running, the Rev. Jerry Falwell has told pastors at a "values" conference.

"I certainly hope that Hillary is the candidate," Falwell said, according to a tape recording of the Friday prayer breakfast attended by several hundred pastors and religious activists.

The recording, first reported in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, was confirmed by someone who attended the conference, but not the breakfast, and has heard the tape.

"I hope she's the candidate, because nothing will energize my (constituency) like Hillary Clinton," Falwell said. "If Lucifer ran, he wouldn't."

The "Values Voter Summit" was sponsored by the country's leading conservatives and featured several Republicans who are considering running for president in 2008.

It's a joke! A joke! Don't you have any sense of humor, dammit! But it really is pretty funny to have Falwell say this at the "Values Voter Summit".

The piquant ending to the meal: Why is Hillary Clinton worse than Lucifer? Could it be because she lacks the pecker wingnuts believe Lucifer has? Heh.