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Tuesday, 25 July 2006 09:31

Jim Ridout: Heads in the Sand, or Mad Men and Mad Cows

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by Jim Ridout

The deaths in Iraq have surged once again as the number of Iraqi civilians killed in June rose to 3,000 and the death toll of American heroes just keeps climbing. All of this after President Bush and the Republican Party seized the day to celebrate the death of Zarqawi and the promise of progress and an example of success.

In a recent press conference, General William Caldwell said, "We have not witnessed the reduction in violence that we had hoped for in a perfect world."  He later said that the plan is a start.  A perfect world? President George Bush and the Republican Party have the majority of Iraqis dreaming for the good old days, when they were a true sovereign nation, people were employed, electricity was available, and murders and beheadings were way down. To the General's credit he did not say the plan was a start towards anything in particular, just a start.

It is clear that both figuratively and literally George Bush and the Republican Party are burying their heads in the sand, when it comes to the enormity of the failure in the Folly of Iraq. We have played a significant role in destabilizing the entire Middle East. In our invasion of Iraq we underestimated the influence of religious differences and retribution. We have revived the domino theory, as the foundation for destabilization that we created in Iraq has spread to involve Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. We act as though we have played no role in the recent carnage that we witness in Lebanon or in the Sectarian Slaughter that is now Iraq.

The President and the Republican Party have decided to respond with more troops to Iraq, sending Condoleezza Rice off to schmooze with Israel, and confirm John Bolton as our UN Ambassador to the world. That ought to fix it. I think we would be better off if they all just strapped on their red ruby shoes and clicked their heels together.

Here at home with our treasury drained, highways being sold to foreign governments, borders and ports unprotected, we can now add the protection of our food supply being intentionally abandoned.

This past week Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced that the government would scale back its testing for "Mad Cow" disease because it cost $1 million dollars a week. Gee 1 million a week and we have spent 250 BILLION destabilizing the Middle East!!!!! The justification is that the increased testing only found 3 cases of Mad Cow in the past 3 years, and the International Guidelines that we negotiated only call for 110 tests per day and we are performing 1,000. So the government has decided to play Russian Roulette with our health.

What our government is not saying is that with any and all "Sampling Plans" there is an acceptable failure rate. In this instance we can guess that 1 Mad Cow a year is more than acceptable. Every Sampling Plan will identify a population for testing of a trait. Then a very specific number of tests is performed on that population to determine if that lot or population is acceptable. A common sampling plan used to be MIL 105-Rev.E which is a military sampling plan employed by industry to establish an AQL or Acceptable Quality Level. A question for our government is what is the AQL for the testing of Mad Cow for the production and sale of beef to be sold and consumed by the citizens of the United States? Perhaps, like General Caldwell, Agriculture Secretary Johanns can simply refer to the plan as "a start."

For fun let’s see if we can estimate how many of us will be acceptable "collateral damage" in the right to life world of the GOP. There are about 35 million cattle slaughtered each year in the United States (now remember, this is an estimate, so I may be off a few). Under the revised and reduced testing plan by our government we will test 110 cows per day or about 40,000 annually, which through the magic of math means that our government has determined that it is acceptable to test a bit over 1% of the cows sent for slaughter. When they had really stepped up to protect us and had found 3 cases of Mad Cow they were testing 10% of the cows. Now don’t you feel better? Liberty is on the march. But that is only half the story. I mean how much does a cow weigh and how much beef will it yield? It was, after all, only 3 cows that they found by testing 10% of the population. Well, again from what I can determine, each beef cow weighs on average 746 pounds and yields 522 pounds of beef. As Americans we consume about 90 pounds each per person per year. So the government has determined that 6 of us can die each year (which is completely false because we don’t consume 60 pounds at a setting, Oh, No, the numbers could be much higher. If for instance we each ate ¼ pound of the infected beef, then the possibility rises to 2,088 casualties.)

The point of all of this is that when leadership fails, whether it is in the streets of Iraq or in the aisles of our grocers, it can potentially have dire consequences. We should ask ourselves a simple question and that is "Why?" Why are we in Iraq? If the answer is to fight terror, then why is the man who attacked us nowhere to be found in any of our debates? Have we, through misguided desires and myopic policies, in fact created more terror? Why, here at home, do ports go unprotected or our food supply left abandoned to a great extent? Why is 3 cases of Mad Cow a justification for a reduction in testing as opposed to more testing?

Swagger isn’t leadership. We the people have our future in our hands. In November we must begin to end the policies that endanger our lives. We must have leaders who do not bury their heads in the sand. And, like General Caldwell and Agriculture Secretary Johanns, it is a start. Drag your family and friends to the ballot box in November and vote.

Jim Ridout
Albuquerque, New Mexico