The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, August 3, 2007, News


Wow. If George W. thought Scooter Libby got "harsh" punishment for being the Bushites' fall guy, he ought to consider how top Chinese officials treat their scapegoats.

Mr. Zheng Xiaoyu, the head of China's State Food and Drug Administration, took the fall for the recent scandal of China's exports of shoddy and contaminated products. And, unlike Libby, he didn't just get an 18-month sentence -- they executed him! Took him out and shot him in the back of the head. Now that's taking a fall.

There's much tongue-clucking in our country by pundits and politicos about how the Chinese need to clean up their regulatory act. But, wait a minute -- what about our own Food and Drug Administration? While the number of food imports into the U.S. has increased by 1,000% in the past 14 years, the FDA's port inspections have dropped. Some 80% of food imports are not even subject to inspection -- they're automatically waved in. Of the remaining imports, less than 1% are inspected. Indeed, Bush budget cuts are endangering our food supply -- the FDA gets only $10.6 million for food safety and is now proposing to eliminate seven of its 13 food-safety labs.

Why such lax oversight of such an important product as our food? Because big food manufacturers and major importers like Wal-Mart don't like regulations and inspections -- so the Bushites go out of their way to protect the industry ... rather than us. Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, FDA's honcho, explains that the Bush regime prefers to use voluntary guidelines rather than rules and enforcement, because "Regulations are more cumbersome."

Yes, von Eschenbach -- that's the idea! It should not be easy for profiteering corporations to play loose with the safety of our food supply. For information and action to strengthen the FDA, visit Center for Science in the Public Interest:


Ready for your monthlong vacation? You do get all of August off ... don't you?

Well, one group planning to enjoy R&R for the entirety of August is the very group that most needs to stay on the job and -- how shall I put this? -- get something done! It's the Iraqi government. The parliament has announced its members are going to vacate the Capitol and chill out during August.

Excuse me? Isn't there a war rampaging over there? Aren't these the squabbling sectarian leaders who haven't been able to come to a political consensus and muster a security force to run their own country? Don't we have troops being killed and maimed every day in their civil war? Aren't U.S. taxpayers dumping $10 billion a month into the morass of Iraq?

And now they're taking a month off?

If their summer abdication of responsibility is not grounds for voting to withdraw our troops -- what is? I agree with Republican Sen. Gordon Smith: "This is a fight that is theirs, not ours."

Yet Bush public relations flack Tony Snow meekly tried to rationalize the Iraqi leaders' abandonment of duty by saying, "Well, it's 130 degrees in Baghdad in August." You want hot, Tony? Go strap on the hot, heavy war gear that Bush has got our soldiers wearing in that summer heat. Will they be given August off to chill out?

Meanwhile, Bush's Senate allies killed another vote to set a firm timetable for getting our troops out of there. Their excuse for holding them in Iraq's civil war is that if we leave, chaos will follow. Hello ... Iraq is chaos! It's not worth the life of another U.S. soldier to try to fix what their so-called "leaders" clearly feel no urgency to fix for themselves.

Besides, the same "chaos" excuse was used to prolong the Vietnam War. We left, and what happened? Not chaos -- golf! Yes, a series of seven golf resorts are now strung along the Ho Chi Minh Trail ... and Americans are invited to come play.

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