Actual lobbyist quote: 'Now to get rid of those pesky health departments!'
Probably the worst effects of Donald Trump's presidency was that there was so much widespread incompetence, corruption, and downright criminality that it's nearly impossible to keep track of it all. Trump and his Team of Evils got away with stuff that would have sunk prior administrations every damn day. Steve Bannon's approach to misinformation — "flood the zone with shit" — applied equally to misbehavior in office. There was far more than any of the official watchdogs in government, or the unofficial ones in the media, could keep track of. So much criminality, so little time, and so little brain space for all of it.
As a prime example, take this report released yesterday by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which found that the meatpacking industry was thick as thieves with Trump's Department of Agriculture, where career staff were sidelined so that political appointees could do everything possible to keep meat plants running during the pandemic, worker safety be damned. At least 269 workers died during the pandemic, and more than 59,000 became infected, all while the industry resisted any attempt to protect workers from spreading infection.
Worse, the report presents evidence that the industry pushed "flimsy if not false" claims of an impending meat shortage to justify keeping plants running near capacity, no matter what, although internal industry documents showed management knew there was no such shortage. Ultimately, the report says, the industry enlisted the USDA and the White House in an effort to avoid oversight from state and local health authorities. Donald Trump's April 2020 executive order demanded that meat plants stay open, to keep meating America with all the meat the meat industry could meat at us.
As Wonkette's Evan Hurst noted at the time, Trump's HEREBY DECLARE was a hell of a departure from how Trump handled other aspects of the pandemic:
Trump has been reluctant to use actual powers he has, like invoking the Defense Production Act to make sure doctors have PPE and hospitals have ventilators, but he sure did invoke it to make sure America's delicious meats are able to make their full journey from the plant all the way into his Big Macs which go in his mouth. How can the White House chef burn him steaks and slather them with ketchup if the meat plants are closed? Clearly an untenable situation.
Well gosh, what a coincidence Donald Trump took such meaty action to protect the meat industry, which was worried about being sued by workers forced to process animal carcasses in close quarters, with little protective equipment. The report details that the executive order was actually proposed and drafted by lawyers at Tyson Foods, with input from other companies. (ProPublica broke that story in the fall of 2020, although we missed it at the time.) Tyson and industry lobbyists then shared the draft "with allied USDA officials who had previously helped them lobby or interfere with decision-making by other arms of federal and state government."
In the days leading up to President Trump’s issuance of the Executive Order, meatpacking industry representatives and companies—Smithfield and Tyson in particular—engaged in constant communications with Trump appointees at USDA, the National Economic Council, and the White House. [...] The eventual order adopted the themes and statutory directive laid out in Tyson’s draft, invoking the Defense Production Act to ensure meatpacking plants “continue operations.”
That was just how the Trump administration worked: Why bother regulating industries during a deadly pandemic when you can just let the industry tell you what it would like to do?
Not that the executive order was a complete freebie; the report also notes that the day after President Meat Sweats ordered more meat, the White House demanded tribute, requesting in an email to various meat trade groups that the companies “issue positive statements and social media about the President’s action on behalf of the industry, about the Order itself and about how it will help ensure the food supply chain remains strong.”
A flack at the "North American Meat Institute" obligingly sent back not only a press release, but a set of talking points the White House might use to thank the industry for thanking Trump.
The report concludes that the meatpacking companies
knew the risk posed by the coronavirus to their workers and knew it wasn’t a risk that the country needed them to take. They nonetheless lobbied aggressively—successfully enlisting USDA as a close collaborator in their efforts—to keep workers on the job in unsafe conditions, to ensure state and local health authorities were powerless to mandate otherwise, and to be protected against legal liability for the harms that would result.
As the Washington Post (free link) reports, the committee combed through a wealth of information, including
a review of 151,000 pages of documents, more than a dozen survey calls with industry union representatives, former Agriculture Department and Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials, and state and local health authorities. The subcommittee also held a staff briefing with OSHA and the USDA.
Some of the details are simply astonishing, like the quote from a meat industry lobbyist that graces the cover of the report, "Now to get rid of those pesky health departments!" Yes, someone said that in a real email, not in an episode of Scooby Doo.
That quote's from page three, in which the committee explained that well into the pandemic, the industry was still refusing to take science-based measures to keep workers from getting infected on the job.
For example, as late as May 22, 2020—well after the efficacy and necessity of coronavirus precautions such as testing, social distancing, and personal protective equipment were widely recognized—an executive at Koch Foods told a meatpacking industry lobbyist that temperature screening was “all we should be doing.” The lobbyist agreed, saying “Now to get rid of those pesky health departments!”
In a footnote, we find that's from an email by one Ashley Peterson, who was and is the "Senior Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs" for the "National Chicken Council." After all, a temperature check found one worker who was sick, the worker went home, and later tested positive, so clearly that was the only sick worker at that plant. (Also, no, temperature checks alone were never sufficient to safeguard against infections at work)
Dr. Peterson made another appearance later that summer, in a tweet from the National Chicken Council explaining that worker safety is job one, although oddly in the linked video she doesn't say anything about getting rid of those meddling kids in health departments. Hey, maybe she was just joking and pretending to sound like a cartoon villain! We left a message for Dr. Peterson at the Chicken Lobby seeking comment, and will update when / if we hear back from her.
\u201cWorker safety is not something that\u2019s new to the chicken industry,\u201d shares Ashley Peterson, PhD, @chickencouncil Sr VP of Scientific & Regulatory Affairs. \u201cIt\u2019s something that has been part of our culture for decades.\u201dhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKRX0FLY2-k&feature=emb_logo\u00a0\u2026— Natl Chicken Council (@Natl Chicken Council) 1598888892
In another fun incident, we learn that Foster Farms enlisted help from a Trump USDA appointee, Undersecretary of Ag Mindy Brashears, to prevent a local health department from ordering protections for workers. The chicken company, it turns out, had hidden death counts of workers in reports to the county as “resolved cases."
According to officials from this health department, during a call with Foster Farms and Brashears’ office, someone working for either Foster Farms or USDA callously referred to these death counts as “toe tag resolutions,” likely alluding to the toe tag that is often put on a corpse at the morgue.
Haha, it is to laugh.
Also too, the report notes that the meatpacking companies fairly regularly "lobbied the White House to make clear that—despite concerns by state and local health departments—meatpacking companies should not have to address coronavirus risks if it would impact productivity." Because heavens, you wouldn't want either a meat shortage or a loss in profitability, now would you? The lobbying was particularly intense in seeking protection from liability for workers getting sick, a matter of such importance to then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he fought tooth and nail to have it included in federal stimulus bills, even after Trump lost the 2020 election. Poor sad Mitch, it never did get passed.
In conclusion, this report makes clear that the meat industry and the Trump administration didn't give two good shits about worker safety, because there was a lot of money to be made. Besides, it wasn't like anyone important was dying — just low-income workers, many of them Latino, and as a Smithfield pork plant spokesperson memorably said, "Living circumstances in certain cultures are different than they are with your traditional American family," so probably the workers were getting sick at home and then tainting the company's immaculate slaughterhouse with filthy non-American virus.
At least the workers' health made for a fun betting pool among Tyson plant managers, allegedly.
See? We still can't get our heads around all that shit. It's infuriating, and nobody's going to go to jail.
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Maybe some light civil war, too, as needed.
You've probably already heard that if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade next month as expected, some 26 states are set to ban most abortions almost immediately, because they either have old pre-Roe bans still on the books, or because they've passed "trigger" bans that will become effective the moment the Court rules, if not when CNN misreports the news.
And while you might be worried about what the new legal hellscape will mean for reproductive health, women's rights, and other constitutional protections, you may want to keep in mind that people who have been looking forward to the end of Roe also have a lot of concerns about what comes next. Like, for starters, how soon can they start executing people for performing or getting abortions?
See, we're not so dissimilar, are we?
As Right Wing Watch reports, forced-birth advocates Stew Peters and Abby Johnson are very concerned about what'll happen in the roughly half of states that are set to recriminalize abortion. You might remember Abby Johnson from her appearance at the 2020 Republican Convention; she's the former Planned Parenthood director who says she suddenly became an anti-choice activist when her evil bosses told her to "sell" more 'bortions and she saw, via ultrasound, a 13-week fetus recoil from getting aborted. She had a crappy movie made about her and everything! She told the story again at the 2020 RNC, because that's her job now, even though journalists have pointed out it doesn't really add up.
In any case, Johnson is now all in on the imminent criminalization of abortion, but she and Peters discussed the need to go far beyond simply outlawing the procedure that nearly a quarter of American women have by the time they're 45. What good is outlawing abortion, they wondered, if you aren't also killing people to make the point that you're "pro-life"?
Here's video of the conversation, from Peters's internet chat show Tuesday; we were very impressed by the chyron reading "EXCLUSIVE: INSIDE PLANNED PARENTHOOD / THE UNDERBELLY OF THE SOROS PLAN TO KILL AMERICAN BABIES." Because if you're planning a campaign of Dominionist authoritarianism, you may as well throw in a little blood libel against Jews, too.
Johnson explained that she's "a little afraid" that the outlawing of abortion won't have any "teeth" behind it. Some states may ban abortion, sure, but "if there’s no criminal penalty behind procuring an abortion, you know, then so what?" She urged voters to find out what it would actually mean in their states when abortion is outlawed.
Peters didn't need any prompting to jump right in: "It means that it's murder. It's murder."
Johnson agreed: "If it’s murder, then it needs to be treated like murder."
Fact check: from a legal standpoint, it's only murder if a state statutes defines it as murder. Otherwise it's a bumper sticker slogan.
While wingnut state legislators love introducing bills that would indeed impose the death penalty for abortion, none has passed, although that may change when Roe is gone. Louisiana Republicans are pushing a bill to treat abortion as "homicide," although the bill as written doesn't specify a penalty.
Peters was very excited about the prospects, if not particularly worried about trivial details like "passing laws," because he's on a mission from God:
PETERS: That’s right. We need a governor with the balls to stand up and say that: "I will bulldoze every single Planned Parenthood facility in my state. I will bulldoze any facility that facilitates this murder of unborn babies, preborn, real living people. I will make it a criminal offense to fund anybody that does this, and if you’re found out funding murder or carrying out murder, you will be executed. Period." That’s what needs to happen.”
Fact Check: Planned Parenthood, as normal sane people know, is mostly in the business of providing a range of healthcare, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, sex education, STD testing and prevention, birth control, and other stuff women need, and also some men, and LGBT people use their services a lot also too. Not that any of that matters, bulldoze 'em!
Johnson went off on a tangent about how on earth could anyone see a difference between an eight-week fetus and a two-year-old child, because obviously they are exactly the same. It reminded me a bit of the fundamentalist view that real Christians must take the two stories of creation in Genesis literally, because it they're only metaphors, then maybe everything else in the Bible is open to question too. Ya think?
So obviously, if life begins at conception, and a fertilized egg has all the rights of a two-year-old child, then anyone using an IUD is a serial killer, and anyone who performs abortions or prescribes some forms of birth control is Dr. Mengele.
JOHNSON: If we truly believe that abortion is murder, then we need to start acting like it.
PETERS: Abortion is murder, and those who carry it out should be executed. This is the most powerful prayer in recent history answered by God for the entire world to watch and witness and see his greatness, his glory, his power. This is a time that we all need to unite. We’re at war. This is a war.
Notice that throughout the conversation, both of them mostly talk as if they'd only want to execute abortion providers. Presumably they want a little plausible deniability when it comes to those who choose to have abortions, but it's not difficult to see how they too might need a good killin' to prove that abortion is murder. After all, those who "fund" abortion — George Soros, clearly — must be executed, so anyone who pays to have their pregnancy terminated would need to be made a lesson of, too.
Finally, the talk turned, as it so often does with True Believers, to the need for the cleansing fire of a literal war. Johnson's all in on that:
JOHNSON: We went to war over slavery, right? Why? Because there was a group of people who were seen and treated as subhuman. And right now, in our country, there is a group of people who are seen and treated as subhuman. We are, in our society, at war, but maybe it means more than that.
And maybe it should. If there was ever a time, if there was ever an issue for us to actually go to war over—when this becomes illegal, and if these clinics try to remain open and kill these babies, then maybe direct action needs to take place. If there was ever an issue for us to stand up and say, ‘"this is something that we are willing to physically fight for," this is it!
Gosh, wonder if anyone in the class can point out any significant differences between people who were held in slavery and a zygote? We're certain Johnson thinks it's a very ennobling comparison, at least for the holy fetuses. We have little hope that she'd recognize how deeply insulting the comparison is, since it suggests that enslaved people were helpless not-quite-humans who needed the benevolent help of real adults to be rescued. There's always a white savior narrative, isn't there?
We can talk a bit more about the appropriateness of that metaphor further, just as soon as the 54th Massachusetts Fetus Regiment marches into battle. But we suppose it's a bit mean of us to expect Johnson to consider African Americans really truly people, given her own contention that it's logical for her adopted Black son to be racially profiled, since after all, she explained, Black people really do commit lots of crimes.
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Gateway Pundit pretty sure literal demon was caught on video outside John Roberts's house.
The peaceful protests outside the DC-area homes of Supreme Court justices have really upset a lot of people on the right, because what sorts of monsters would protest outside someone's home, where they live? At least, as long as the protest wasn't over COVID policies. Then it's OK to terrify public officials' kids not only by marching outside their homes, but by flashing strobe lights at the windows and pounding on the door.
Among those upset by the protests are Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), who went on Newsmax to call for arrests of all the protesters, and who claimed it's illegal to protest outside a judge's home, a claim House Republicans have advanced as well. (More on that in a moment.)
WATCH: Senator @MarshaBlackburn calls for MASS ARRESTS of peaceful protestors (more than she ever did for the insurrection) \n\nBut \u201cfree speech\u201d, right Marsha? pic.twitter.com/YivX9RowSQ— The Tennessee Holler (@The Tennessee Holler) 1652239659
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was even more upset by the peaceful protests, which have involved chanting, picketing, and candle-lit vigils, but which have stayed on public streets and sidewalks outside the justices' homes. On Sean Hannity's Smile-Time Lying to Old People Hour Monday, Cruz suggested the protests might even be worser than the completely peaceful protests of January 6, don't you see:
These images are the latest manifestation of just how extreme, just how radical, the Democratic Party is getting. [...] Today's Democrat Party believes in violence, they believe in mob rule, they believe in intimidation [...] These thugs have no business at the private homes of any government official, these Supreme Court justices or anyone else.
To emphasize the violent terrorism being perpetrated by the dangerous mob of crazed thugs, Fox showed video of people murderously walking in the streets and carrying signs in the most terrifying manner. Because it was raining during at least one march, several of the thugs carried open umbrellas, which might have been used as deadly weapons, and the fact that they weren't only proves what a close brush with death the justices escaped.
Cruz contrasted the slightly damp protesters outside the justices' homes with the good decent patriots of January 6, whom Cruz remembered not to call "terrorists" this time.
On January 6 of 2021, you had tens of thousands of people peacefully protesting, and yet the corporate media and Democrats slander them with the made-up term "insurrectionist." [...]
And yet in this instance, they are not willing to call off their goons even now, even now, as this has the potential to escalate and escalate further.
To the best of our knowledge, none of the protesters outside the SCOTUS justices' homes chanted for them to be hanged, broke through any windows, sprayed anyone with bear repellent, beat anyone with flagpoles, looted any offices, or injured more than 114 police officers, but that's probably because we're so biased we're just covering it up. MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan had no difficulty calling attention to the idiocy of the comparison, particularly given how consistently rightwing media has downplayed the actual deadly violence at the US Capitol.
Hasan also contrasted this week's nonviolent marches on public property to the long history of murder, assault, arson, and death threats against doctors, nurses, and clinics that provide abortion.
As for the claim that protesting on public property outside a judge's home is a federal crime, Republicans have been citing 18 U.S. Code § 1507, which reads,
Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building housing a court of the United States, or in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge, juror, witness, or court officer, or with such intent uses any sound-truck or similar device or resorts to any other demonstration in or near any such building or residence, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
Yr Doktor Zoom is not an attorney, so we ran that contention past Wonkette legal analyst Liz Dye, who is. Her considered legal opinion is "that's bullshit," and that "You got a right to be on the public street and express your opinion." In fact, she was quite certain that any attempt to invoke that law against protesters on public property would "never be upheld, not even by this SCOTUS."
That said, the Washington Post's Aaron Blake found some legal experts who thought the law might actually be valid. Blake notes that while the Supremes have "rarely dealt with this specific statute," they have upheld some similar laws. So we suppose that if any mass arrests of protesters do happen, we'll find out eventually. We'll just note that astute Wonkette legal analyst Jamie Lynn Crofts agrees with Liz that the federal statute is unenforceable, and also "that Post take is dumb."
We have to wonder: would justices whose homes were the site of protest have to recuse themselves? Haha, we amuse ourselves.
In any case, let's please not get too hung up over the legality of protesting outside Supreme Court justices' homes, because the Stupidest Man on the Internet, Gateway Pundit publisher Jim Hoft, recently discovered a far more frightening matter: an actual honest-to-Crom DEMON at one of the protests. We are not making this up:
That sounds pretty scary! Let's see that "demon" better! ENHANCE!
Hoft carefully notes that the demon-strator appears around the 15-second mark in this Twitter video, and heavens, it couldn't possibly be some sort of glitch in low-resolution video, could it? Actual real demons protesting to keep Roe v. Wade in place seems far more likely. Maybe the demon escaped from that Portal to Hell that Roger Stone spotted above the White House.
There is nothing wrong with protesting in public spaces outside the homes of justices who refuse to be held accountable for the decisions they make affecting every American. \n\nOutside John Roberts' house.pic.twitter.com/HYXMOgxtYw— *The* Editorial Board (@*The* Editorial Board) 1652039151
Ever the scrupulous chronicler of the truth, Hoft noted:
We are not saying the girls are demons. We are reporting a demon-like image appears in the screengrab. In fact, the demon looks nothing like the female protester in the video. So how do you explain this?
Well duh. Lizard people. It's always lizard people.
The real question is whether federal law applies to literal demons from hell, or to lizard people, isn't it?
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Fine, Tucker, See You Lext Tuesday.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson was simply delirious with joy at learning that New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Sunday, because it proves no one needs to be vaccinated or something. Hochul wrote on Twitter, "Thankfully, I’m vaccinated and boosted, and I’m asymptomatic. I’ll be isolating and working remotely this week."
Today I tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, I\u2019m vaccinated and boosted, and I\u2019m asymptomatic. I\u2019ll be isolating and working remotely this week. \n\nA reminder to all New Yorkers: get vaccinated and boosted, get tested, and stay home if you don\u2019t feel well.— Governor Kathy Hochul (@Governor Kathy Hochul) 1652034743
Tucker found it simply hilarious that, after saying she was vaxxed and boosted, Hochul called on all New Yorkers to get vaccinated and boosted, because what the hell good would that do? Like, apart from the vaccines' proven effectiveness at preventing serious illness and death.
Also too, Carlson left out the part about her being asymptomatic, which is kind of a big deal, and the point of why the vaccines are extremely effective even against a quickly changing virus.
Here's the video of Carlson being extremely weird about all of this, via Media Matters:
New York Governor Kathy Hochul has never actually been elected to the office she holds, but she has tested positive for COVID-19! Recently, right now, you know what that means. It means the vaccine works perfectly!
Again, it means the vaccine helped keep Hochul from developing serious illness, being hospitalized, or dying.
Next, Carlson read only part of Hochul's statement, leaving out the bit about being asymptomatic.
Here's the statement she released: "Thankfully I am vaccinated and boosted. Reminder to all New Yorkers, get vaccinated and boosted."
This was followed by a burst of insane Tucker Carlson laughter, which is a deeply disturbing phenomenon. But he had to cackle like that, because Kathy Hochul is completely out of her mind to believe the vaccine had anything to do with her continued good health. Maybe she accidentally brushed against a horse and got protected by dewormer, you ever think of that?
That's right, maybe she got secondhand horse pasted, and that is why she is fine.
He was disgusted, he said:
She is just reading the catechism! If that sounds like a religious ritual, well, because to Kathy Hochul the vaccine is a religion. Here she was in September.
Carlson cut to a clip of Hochul telling people that vaccines are effective, and suggesting that the Christian thing to do, to show you love others, is to get vaccinated and to urge them to do so as well, for the good of all. As if that had anything to do with the real Gospel of Jesus Christ, who wants you to keep America safe from Mexicans and to fire all the gay teachers.
"Now she's got the 'rona!" Carlson scoffed. "Looks like her stupid little cult religion didn't work. Time to pick a better god!"
Possibly that god should be orange and irrational.
Carlson then went on to point out that the White House is warning of a new COVID surge this fall, which he seems to think is a sneaky election year plot, because who doesn't love a surge of deadly infections? Kidding! He's afraid people might vote by mail, which is automatically cheating because it just is.
Then Tucker chatted with Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, an "infect everyone" COVID numpty from way back, who said it was very irresponsible of the White House to "warn that this is impending doom again," which of course the White House never said, and who said that America simply cannot go back to lockdowns, which is also not being considered.
Ultimately, the two agreed that the virus will just be around forever, so why bother even getting vaccinated, everything's fine, and God will sort through the bodies and send some of them to heaven, the end.
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