Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Last Call For Food For Thought(lessness)

As we come up on the end of Week 3 of the Trump shutdown, please keep in mind that FDA food inspections aren't considered government-essential services and right now most food is not being inspected at all, so hey, I hope you haven't eaten anything in January.

The furloughing of hundreds of Food and Drug Administration inspectors has sharply reduced inspections of the nation’s food supply — one of the many repercussions of the partial government shutdown that are making Americans potentially less safe.

The agency, which oversees 80 percent of the food supply, has suspended all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview. He is working on a plan to bring inspectors back as early as next week to inspect facilities considered high-risk because they handle sensitive items such as seafood, soft cheese and vegetables, or have a history of problems.

“We are doing what we can to mitigate any risk to consumers through the shutdown,” Gottlieb said.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit advocacy group, described the inspection reductions as unacceptable.

“That puts our food supply at risk,” said Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the group. “Regular inspections, which help stop foodborne illness before people get sick, are vital.”

Foodborne illnesses are a major problem in the United States, sickening 48 million people each year and killing 3,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

Food inspections are just one of the public health and safety efforts that have been cut or curtailed during the shutdown, now deep into its third week. The federal government also keeps airplanes from colliding, inspects pharmaceutical drugs, pursues criminals and defends against possible terrorist and cyberattacks. It is a 24-7-365 effort to make Americans safer.

But a shutdown upends the calculus of risk management as agencies including the FBI, Coast Guard, Secret Service, FDA, Federal Aviation Administration and Agriculture Department face drastically reduced resources.

Again, Trump thinks this is a hostage situation where he can win by making Democrats fold through attrition, and once again the cruelty is the point.  A national outbreak of E. coli or the FAA shutting down all flights because of downed systems will start getting people's attention, I guess.

Worth noting that a government already wrecked when it was operation is now broken, and even if people got back to work tomorrow, it would be quite some time before we got back to even nominal 2018 levels of Trump regime "broken on purpose" government-run disaster.

That Whole Saturday Night Massacre Thing, Con't

Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein is now expected to leave the Justice Department to make way for the expected confirmation of Attorney General William Barr.

Rosenstein has communicated to President Donald Trump and White House officials his plan to depart the administration around the time William Barr, Trump's nominee for attorney general, would take office following a Senate confirmation.

Sources told ABC News Rosenstein wants to ensure a smooth transition to his successor and would accommodate the needs of Barr, should he be confirmed.

Rosenstein apparently had long been thinking he would serve about two years, and there was no indication that he was being forced out at this moment by the president.

Upon the termination of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speculation mounted that Rosenstein would depart shortly thereafter, yet he's remained in his post as Matt Whitaker has served as acting Attorney General since late November.

Rosenstein oversaw special counsel Robert Mueller's probe for more than a year, after Sessions had recused from the matter over his role in Trump's presidential campaign.

Like other senior leaders within the Justice Department, Rosenstein became a frequent target of Trump's on Twitter, with the president recently re-posting an image of Rosenstein and others behind bars.

As far as the Mueller probe goes, Rosenstein is no longer Mueller's boss anyway with the summary firing of Jeff Sessions, acting AG Matt Whitaker is. Whitaker hasn't so far chosen to interfere overtly in the Mueller probe yet, that may be up to William Barr after he's confirmed by the Senate GOP.

Still, it looks like to me with the Mueller probe and his expected report coming in the next several weeks, Rosenstein realized that he's not going to be able to stay past Barr's confirmation.  Of course, the part about the Trump regime not forcing him out is probably a lie too.

What effect this will have on the Mueller probe, we may not know for a while.

Shutdown Meltdown, Con't

Trump's propaganda dog and pony show last night wasn't worth covering, so I won't.  He spent the bulk of the time lying about the border, immigration in general, and the Democratic party.  The American people aren't falling for it, either.

A growing proportion of Americans blame President Donald Trump for a partial government shutdown that will cut off paychecks to federal workers this week, though Republicans mostly support his refusal to approve a budget without taxpayer dollars for the U.S.-Mexico border wall, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday.

The national opinion poll, which ran from Jan. 1 to Jan. 7, found that 51 percent of adults believe Trump “deserves most of the blame” for the shutdown, which entered its 18th day on Tuesday. That is up 4 percentage points from a similar poll that ran from Dec. 21 to 25.

Another 32 percent blame congressional Democrats for the shutdown and 7 percent blame congressional Republicans, according to the poll. Those percentages are mostly unchanged from the previous poll.

A majority now blame Trump, nearly 60% blame Republicans in general.  Not good numbers for the GOP, and they are well aware of the peril they are in.

Republicans face a tooth-and-nail struggle to keep their Senate majority in 2020 under the best of circumstances. But the prolonged government shutdown has gotten them off to a rough start, exploiting party divisions on immigration and giving Democrats fodder to attack Republican incumbents out of the gate.

Though the shutdown is likely to be long forgotten by November 2020, it’s already laid bare the schism incumbent senators will have to navigate — between President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration backers and independent voters who polling shows oppose the shutdown and the president’s border wall.

Two of the most vulnerable Republicans on the ballot next year, Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine, have already broken with Trump and called for the government to reopen even without an agreement on the border wall. Other Republican senators haven’t gone there yet but are growing increasingly frustrated by the impasse.

“It hurts all of us and everybody that’s looking from the outside. They’re like: What is wrong with you? Why can’t you find a solution?” said Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, one of the Republicans up for reelection next year.

I don't think America is going to forget the shutdown between now and 2020.  I think this is going to stick for a while.  We'll see.


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