While we were sleeping
Government machine keeps on churnin’
By Jessi StaffordPosted Jan 11, 2012
While you were sleeping, the money died, machines were harmless and the earth sighed; through the wind you slept sound.
-Elvis Perkins, “While You Were Sleeping”
While much of the country was busy traveling last month, taking time off from work to catch up with family and friends, the government was quite busy.
The political climate has been so focused on the incessant GOP debates, it’s difficult to remember there is an existing governing body which still has one year left to bring out the big guns. A few important actions stealthily delivered alongside our holiday cheer have inspired much frenzy in the New Year, and they involve food, freedom and a good ole recess appointment.
A case of the superbugs
Initial reports in December said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would not be regulating the use of human antibiotics fed to healthy livestock (in spite of long-held plans to do so) leaving environmental groups and food policy advocates down in the dumps. Ongoing criticism states the FDA is not acting in the best interest of public health. Research cites rampant antibiotic use will produce drug-resistant disease strains, or “superbugs.” The U-turn decision was made during the holiday season and only published in the federal register, according to several reports including The Guardian. Michael Pollan, author of the Onmivore’s Dilemma, has been outspoken on the topic.
“When Margaret Hamburg became the head of the FDA...she was going to treat this issue as if her hair was on fire. This isn’t the way someone acts when their hair is on fire,” Pollan wrote.
Additionally, critics of the FDA say there’s no reason not to ban antibiotics in food because the EU has already done so. Those in the meat industry counter that antibiotics are necessary to keep animals healthy before consumption. Currently, 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States are used in livestock, according to analysis by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. In a surprise move, the Feds ruled to limit some antibiotics after all, particularly cephalosporin in cattle, swine, chicken and turkey. Cephalosporin accounts for less than half of one percent of all antibiotics used in the U.S., and though the drug can no longer be used preventatively, it can still be used to treat illness, an allowance meat industry folks are content with.
But we were at recess!
Another testy happening came in the form of President Barack Obama’s recess appointments. Obama’s decision to name Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and three people to seats on the National Labor Relations Board, while Congress was out of session have opponents calling the moves unconstitutional. Two areas of discrepancy circulate in reports from the Washington Post to The Daily Show: First, calling Obama’s appointments unconstitutional is ignoring similar appointments by President George W. Bush during his term, and other presidents throughout history including Democrat Harry Truman and Republican Theodore Roosevelt. On the other hand, Congress may have actually been in session...for roughly one minute, a move Democrats created during Bush’s term to prevent such recess appointments from taking place. These non-legislative “proforma” sessions have been happening every three days in an attempt to block Obama. It seems arguing parties can’t seem to make up their mind about what the issue is exactly, while Obama is facing a legal battle over his actions. Senate officially resumes lawmaking on January 23.
Detention is a b*tch
The indefinite detention bill embedded in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has perhaps been the most fury-inducing act over the holidays yet. The Senate passed the bill, ironically or ominously, on Bill of Rights Day. The bill was signed on December 31, 2011. Happy New Year! The President himself said he had “serious reservations” about the provisions and how his administration would use the authorities granted by the NDAA. Oh well! Organizations like the ACLU say the bill is an extremely dangerous one, one with a worldwide sweep, “because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.” Even if you are an American citizen, and you are merely suspected of acts of terrorism, you can be held in detention, indefinitely. Others claim the bill isn’t actually as terrifying as it sounds. But even the New York Times, notoriously pro-Obama, issued a fairly condemning editorial on the topic. The main argument against this bill is that it blatantly ignores the principle of due process, as well as the right to a free trial. It’s preventive law, and assumes all suspects are guilty before proven innocent. And that’s what we missed, while we were sleeping.