The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, July 20, 2007, News


Those steaks, veggies, and other foods you buy at the supermarket – where do they come from?

Most consumers assume that since the USA is the greatest food producer in the world, all of these staples come out of America's own, good soil. But chances are they come from China, Eastern Europe, or other countries where U.S. processors and supermarkets can get food on the cheap. With the recent exposés of contaminated foods from China, however, we're learning that "cheap" imports can come at a heavy price for consumers. Shouldn't there be a law to label meats and produce, so we shoppers can know from where we're buying?

There is! It's called Country of Origin Labeling, and it was passed five years ago. Don't bother checking your supermarket labels, though, because corporate lobbyists and the Bushites have quietly prevented the implementation of COOL.

Lobbying groups like the American Meat Institute don't want consumers knowing that much of the meat its corporate members sell is not American at all. The conglomerate food processors and such giant retailers as Wal-Mart also don't want us to know that they're filling their packages and shelves with stuff from places with little food-safety regulation. So they've pumped campaign money into the pockets of Congress critters to get them to stall the law. For example, Rep. Henry Bonilla, who was key to sidetracking COOL, took more than $368,000 from the meat industry alone.

The food importers also stacked Bush's Agriculture Department with their own henchmen. One beef industry-trade group, for example, put three of its former executives in top Agriculture Department slots – including the deputy undersecretary, who would have overseen the labeling program.

The good news is Rep. Rosa DeLauro is working to free COOL from the lobbyists' choke hold. To help, call her office at 202/225-3661.


"There's leaks in the executive branch," George W. declared four years ago when CIA Agent Valerie Plame's identity was illegally disclosed. Bush went on, solemnly declaring, "And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."

Perhaps you thought that "taken care of" meant, you know, punished. No one is above the law, right? And even when it's top White House officials who "do the crime," they should "do the time" – just like common folks are treated – shouldn't they?

Silly us. These are the Bushites we're talking about! So, when Lewis "Scooter" Libby violated the law and was sentenced to 21Ú2 years, he was "taken care of," all right. George himself stepped in to circumvent the normal process and declared that there'll be no jail time for Scooter – not even a day.

Bush imperiously asserted that the 30-month sentence given to Libby was "excessive," so he suddenly turned soft on crime and gave this particular felon a get-out-of-jail-free card. Scooter's sentence was less than what others who've done the same kind of crime got – including people prosecuted furiously by Bush's own Justice Department. Where was the presidential concern about excess in their cases? Of course, none of those felons was an Oval Office insider, and none of them knows the dirty little Iraq war secrets that Scooter does – secrets that Bush and Cheney don't want their former loyalist talking about. So Scooter got a special presidential dispensation to scoot out of his jail sentence.

Ironically, by imposing his claim of "excessive" punishment in Scooter's case, Bush the Legal Scholar has inadvertently bumbled into future cases, for he has created a "Libby defense" that other lawyers will now use to reduce the sentence of their clients. After all, if it's good enough for Libby, why not everyone else?

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