Wednesday, January 28, 2009


According to a briefing given reporters by Michael Rogers, Director of Regional Investigations at the Food and Drug Administration, a peanut butter processing plant in Blakely, GA has been identified as the source of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 500 people and was responsible for 8 deaths across 43 states and Canada. The plant, owned by Peanut Corp. of America out of Lynchburg, VA, had been cited numerous times throughout 2007 and 2008 for salmonella contamination, but kept shipping product anyway. The FDA found that the plant's manufacturing conditions differed significantly from good manufacturing practice and had "an adverse effect upon the quality of that product, making it adulterated." In fact, once the plant had received the FDA's lab findings, the company contracted with other, presumably hand-picked, labs, which found no evidence of bacterial contamination, so, getting the results it wanted, the company happily kept ship[ping infected product. This approach reminds me of my elderly father's folly regarding high blood pressure. His doctor told him on a visit that he had borderline high blood pressure and prescribed medication for it. My father abjors medications and resists them like the plague. Ever the skeptic, he went out and bought a home blood pressure measuring device. I watched him one day recently, rapidly taking three or four successive readings in a row, not bothering to properly recalibrate the device before each reading. I noted he had written down three differnt readings. When I asked him what he was doing, he said, "i'm looking for the best reading!" So then I said to him, "Do you want the BEST reading, or the ACCURATE one?" He looked at me like I was half nuts and exclaimed indignantly, "Why, the BEST one, of course!" My father can be excused, kind of, because his actions affected only him and he's nearly 87. Peanut Corp. of America CANNOT be excused for what they have done to the innocent public, for their actions were based on greed and negligence.

I have been a Type I diabetic, since 1957, diagnosed just after my 3rd birthday. I have injected insulins daily all these years since then, and joke with my friends that I am the only human pin cushion they know. One of the types of insulin I use is made only by the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co. I have used their products faithfully for more than 50 years. Now that I am temporarily (I hope) out of work and can no longer afford health insurance, I am finding out just how ungodly expensive my meds have become. Just the other day, I was shocked to pay $109 plus change for a bottle of this made-by-Lilly-only insulin purchased at a pharmacy known nationally for its low prices. But I was horrified to learn only yesterday that I could have purchased this VERY SAME product out of Canada for only $43.25 per bottle, less than HALF what I had just paid here in the USA! I resent the fact that Eli Lilly, who has consistently shown great profit in recent years, has a CEO paying himself more than $7 million per year (and a board of directors also exceeedingly well paid), who obviously feels it essential to charge the dealers and citizens of their own country MORE THAN DOUBLE what they charges those in Canada. This, too, CANNOT be excused, for ANY reason!

I once knew a guy in college who was an avid Socialist. With great zeal he used to cheerily urge fellow students to sign up for Young Socialist, a publication which had been put out by the Socialist Workers Party, or attend the latest Socialist rally or protest. I saw him smilingly exclaim literally hundreds of times his favorite slogan: "Human needs before profits!" Having witnessed the demoralizing aspect of the Soviet Union's forced dictatorship over the years, I gradually abandoned my youthful, like-minded idealism to favor instead welfare-state capitalism. I recognized that profit was essential to the capitalistic system and that it was a good motivator. But then came the greed of the Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II years, and I began to question again how capitalism has been practiced and abused in this country.

As I think back to Sarah Palin and John McCain last fall, and John Boner (ooops, Boehner), and others today on the far right, corporate Republican, Chamber of Commerce scope, all condemning socialism and socialists as evil, I really wonder. Their heroes in that corporate Republican world are clearly ripping off most of the population, and corporate greed is indeed killing Americans as well as causing them unnecessary financial stress. Who really is the more evil of the two: Socialists, or the corporate bandits? Those Republicans saying the former should tell that to the families and friends of those who died from tainted peanut butter, or to millions of diabetics like me who are getting screwed by Eli Lilly. But, Republicans, we won't be listening to you.


Yellow Dog said...

Amen on another great post.

We in the U.S. have become far too comfortable with private corporations wielding unrestrained power with utter lack of accountability.

My own personal soapbox on this is overturning Southern Pacific Railroad vs. Santa Clara County, the 1886 Supreme Court decision that gave corporations the same legal and constitutional rights of individuals. Virtually all our economic, social and political problems today stem from that decision.

And BTW, thanks for the great defense of my union post at BITB.

Jack Jodell said...

You're very welcome, Yellow Dog, and very deserving of that defense. That critic of yours must have been born and/or is living in a phone booth, completely detached from the real world. I see the guy is/was running for Congress (I looked at his profile briefly). Even in the great conservative state of Indiana, I think he'd have a very tough time getting elected. He is just WAY too out of touch with ordinary people.

That Supreme Court decision you reference was a decision derived from insanity, perhaps the worst decision the court has ever rendered. One of my favorite films, "The Corporation", does a behavioral analysis of corporations as though they really WERE human. The conclusion: Corporations are antisocial and psychotic. It's a fascinating film (available on and you should check it out, if you haven't seen it already.

Keep up the great work, Yellow Dog. We need more guys like you!