Monday, June 16, 2008

Of Salmonella and Oil

You Are What You Consume – Or Maybe What Consumes You

Once again consumers are being warned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about potentially lethal produce that has apparently entered the food chain and made it all the way to kitchen and dining room tables. This time the culprits are plum and cherry tomatoes and the toxin is salmonella.

Unlike recalls of other tainted food – remember lettuce, “mad cow” hamburger meat, and high lead content in baby bottles leaching into milk – one would think that neither consumers nor health officials would have any trouble with mere tomatoes. Yet when the FDA advised consumers to throw out all suspect tomatoes and thoroughly cook those they intended to consume, neither agency provided guidance as to the minimum temperature and cooking time to kill salmonella. What the government agencies did say was that washing tomatoes before consuming them – not a bad practice for all fresh produce – is not enough to be sure that the salmonella has been killed.

For the McBurger generations there’s also a cultural issue. No one wants a hot, limp tomato slice on each side of the triple super-duper McWendy. Such monsters call for thick, cold tomato slices that provide anchor points as one tries not to unhinge the jaw in what is often a failed effort to catch in a single bite a bit of every taste sensation.

On reflection, the salmonella saga is a perfect example of the inversion of proper governance by George Bush and the neocons that have tried to implement their agenda.
The Bush administration that assumed control of the U.S. government in 2001 had in mind one overriding goal: to secure for the U.S. effective control if not outright ownership, via transnational conglomerates, of America’s “fair share” of crude oil – and do so before someone establishes that “peak oil” capacity has been reached.

This program of action had nothing to do with the general public, although if successful it would allow Americans to continue to buy gas-guzzlers for a few more years before the whole industry went into decline. The neocons set their eyes on the prize that got away in 1991when President George H. W. Bush halted the U.S. – led coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait but did not press home this success by going to Baghdad, deposing Saddam, and occupying the oil Ministry and fields – as they now planned to do and – initially – succeeded in doing.

Bush 43 and company came into office with the idea that it could manipulate the public into an assertive policy toward the rest of the world in general and toward the Baghdad regime in particular. The hard part would be to find the right pretext(s) that would convince the public that Saddam had to go and had to go in a war; otherwise, there would be no justification for U.S. forces to go into Iraq. For without a military presence of sufficient size to be credible, oil might once again slip from their grasp.

As it turned out, Osama bin Laden aroused in the U.S. public both fear and a desire for revenge that the administration could and did use for its own purposes. What Washington hadn’t counted on was the re-awakening nationalism engendered by the long occupation.

The FOBs (Friends of Bush) have their profits; the officials who helped them get the money will “get theirs” after the administration leaves office and a “decent interval” passes.

And the public? We don’t have the oil, so we can’t even drive to the store to get the tomatoes that we can’t cook (no oil). On the other hand, without fuel to cook the hamburgers, what do we need tomatoes for?


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