Coincidence? I think not.

800px-newborn_checkupVermont apparently has the nation’s second lowest birth rate. Vermont also has the nation’s lowest premature birth rate and was the only state to get a “B” grade on the recent March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card (no state got an “A”). That is to say, we have fewer babies than others, but the babies we do have, we carry to term. It’s too bad there aren’t more Vermonters in the making — I happen to like Vermonters an awful lot.

Melamine — It’s What’s for Dinner, Baby!

crying20babyThe Republican wet dream of less gov’t regulation delivers once again. Infant formula is now discovered to be tainted with melamine, the killer chemical found in Chinese-made pet food a while back, and subsequently in Chinese-made baby formula as well. Dandy. And the emasculated FDA, house-trained to do the bidding of the neo-cons for the past eight years bends over backwards to assure us that it really isn’t a bad thing, and hey, those little shits are going to have to get used to eating all sorts of junk in this modern world anyway, so why not start them while they’re young?

In covering this little, ahem, issue, the administration’s best friend, AP, does its usual best to help trivialize the matter. “The concentrations detected in the FDA samples were 10,000 times smaller — the equivalent of a drop in a 64-gallon trash bin.” Yep, just a drop in a trash bin. Nothing to worry about, move along now,  you’re in safe hands, even though the FDA had declared earlier that no level of melamine was acceptable or could be considered safe. Try that “drop in a trash bin” allegory with anthrax, dioxin, sarin or some other chemical and it quickly becomes apparent that it’s really a completely useless comparison: if it’s toxic shit it has no business being in baby formula, and a responsible FDA that hadn’t been completely corrupted by eight years of lying and deception would appreciate that.

What purpose does the FDA serve, if it cannot even stand firm and enforce a stated zero tolerance policy on lethal chemicals in infant formula in the face of industry pressure? If eight years of “free market” evangelism has placed the FDA so firmly in bed with the industries it’s supposed to monitor and regulate on behalf of — and for the health and safety of — the American consumer, then we should simply end the charade and defund the whole thing, leaving us to rely entirely on the threat of law suits. The melamine would still be there, of course, and our kids health would still be in jeopardy. But at least we’d stop deluding ourselves that we’re a civilized country of rules and regulations.

Some “Change We Can Believe In” would involve giving the FDA some bite, removing the politically appointed hacks that are running the FDA as an extention of big pharma’s PR operation, and get back into the business of regulating — and enforcing regulations upon — an industry whose products have the potential to harm us and our kids. Nah, too much like real work…

The Unions — that’s why GM is Blogggered

edselI got this thrown at me as friendly banter by a contractor the other day: “heck, GM’s workers make $73 an hour; that’s why the company can’t compete. It’s all the union’s fault.”

It sounded like something Limbaugh or O’Reilly could’ve cooked up for the ignorant bobbleheads, but no, it’s not the usual wingnuts but an editorial in the NYT that’s got the facts all wrong this time. So, that’s $73 an hour including all benefits (health + pension) AND payments to existing pensions/retirees. The real number is more like $40 an hour or so — about what you’d ecpect for skilled labor, and on a par with non-union car manufacturers in the US. Top brass still gets a billion-gazillion a year plus bonuses plus corporate jets — that might have something to do with the dire straits that GM, Ford & Chrysler area in — or maybe, just maybe, it’s the shitty product they’re making that nobody in their right mind wants to buy?!? Go figure.

A local auto retailer (no linky — they’ve named themselves after a famous local Ivy League college) is currently running a pathetically lame ad on the radio asking people to buy their American made crap cars to “do your part for the economy.” Riiight. Like Mr. Yankee dropping $18K for a Chevy Shitcan XL is going to change the fact that the company is a dinosaur in desperate need of either a) euthenasia, or b) a radical management overhaul (as in, fire the idiots who got them into all this trouble). But the Unionized workers? It’s not their fault that they’ve been forced to build shitty cars, and it’s surely not the Union’s fault that GM agreed to pay them a decent salary and give them benefits that should be provided to all workers. With universal health care, the benefits package would be less of a point of contention for Unions, workers, and companies alike.