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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is a Tool, and a Pathetic one at that

Those damn people who Governor Branstad thinks don’t like meat need to be investigated.

Branstad.beef_-252x300.jpgI was reading Mike Glover’s piece: “Iowa Governor seeks Congressional investigation of ‘pink slime,’” and the word “tool” came to mind.

Defined as “a person used as an instrument by another person.” Yes, that would be Republican Governor Branstad (a.k.a., “I will say anything for money and eat hamburgers at your Beck and Call”).

Apparently, Governor Branstad has called for a Congressional investigation (that would be the same Congress that has refused to investigate the 2011 Cantaloupe Outbreak that sickened nearly 150 and killed over 35) into how what he called “a smear campaign” against the meat product commonly called “pink slime” got started.

And, Governor Branstad’s desire for a public flogging of First Amendment rights I am sure has nothing to do with the fact that Beef Products Incorporated’s (BPI’s) top executives and workers have given $820,750 to congressional and presidential candidates over the past decade, with all but $28,400 going to Republicans (who are those Democrats?). And, Governor Branstad, a Republican, received $150,000 over the past two years from people tied to BPI.

Governor Branstad, you are not only a tool, but you are pathetic as well. Don’t you have any pride?

According to Mike Glover, the phrase “pink slime,” coined by a federal microbiologist, Gerald Zirnstein, has appeared in the media at least since a critical 2009 New York Times report by Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Moss. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has railed against it, and it made headlines after McDonald’s and other major chains discontinued their use last year. But a recent piece by The Daily’s, David Knowles, on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s purchase of meat that included “pink slime” for school lunches touched a nerve with Houston mom, Bettina Siegel, whose blog “The Lunch Tray” focuses on kids’ food. She started an online petition asking Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to halt use of “pink slime” in school food.  ABC News,’ Jim Avila, brought the issue to a wider audiance, and then USDA announced that starting in the fall it would give schools the option of choosing ground beef that doesn’t contain it.

So, now Governor Branstad wants to call before Congress: Gerald Zirnstein, Michael Moss, Jamie Oliver, David Knowles, Betina Siegel and Jim Avila and step on their First Amendment rights?

Say, Governor Branstad, guess who will be sitting right beside them? And, yes, I can match dollar for dollar BPI’s war chest. So, to borrow from a President you might like: “bring it on.”

I think it would be fun to be at that hearing. Perhaps, someone might ask you some tough questions about what else you might do for money?  I think Rush Limbaugh might have a word for that.

And, if you really want to vomit, watch this BPI Press Conference.

  • Benny

    It’s not “beckon call” but “beck and call.”

  • Nice article Bill. I’m in total agreement with you. It is one thing when the science has not come to a definitive conclusion on topic/substance to debate it and usually you will have the people that use it favor all evidence on their behalf and those that are opposed to it want to err on the side of caution. This is when government regulators like the EPA could be trusted on to look at all the science and come out with an unbiased standard, most of the time at least.

    That unbiasedness of government is at the core and is what has been or seemed to be lacking now. At one time you could be certain that a government standard meant something. You have this much of chemical Y in your water it’s ok because it’s at a level that’s well below health issues. Now, with the amount of monetary influence you really have to wonder are the standards being set still living up to what they are supposed to be?

    I think the bigger question may be, why do we need to cut corners and reduce costs this drastically to feed our children lunch? I’ve inspected school cafeterias and my hats off to the ones I’ve gone through. How they manage to provide as healthful, interesting and enticing food and do it safely greatly underrated.

  • Alex

    Branstad has an entire state to manage. A state whose economy is still principally agricultural and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future. The man must represent his constituents at all levels of agricultural production — happens to be the beef industry this time that’s being unfairly assaulted. What’s your fear of a hearing or two? It’s not a bad idea to test our first amendment rights every once in a while if only to re-survey and re-stake the boundaries. When a group of fools (or “tools”) step over the line to scream “fire” in a crowded theater it is reasonable to investigate. If investigation reveals nothing amiss, then no harm-no foul. If investigation exposes a nest of snakes in the henhouse, well prosecution is the next appropriate step. Why so angry, Bill? Isn’t this process of ferreting out miscreants and making them accountable pretty much the same thing you do for a living? Or is it a special case for angry mommy bloggers and skulking anti-agriculture scabs? Please explain why they get an automatic pass when you will adroitly skewer a hapless food producer without hesitation? Tools are where you find them, Bill. Look in a mirror once in a while. Maybe someday when the economy of Washington state relies principally upon the lawyer industry your governor will be sensitive to agenda-driven outsiders who smear and bankrupt you.

  • Alex, here is a response I got via email from someone who did not want to go public:
    “What country do we live in anyway? Consumers don’t know what’s in their food, and if someone tells them, they might get hauled before Congress; you better not try to take a picture of how a farmer treats his animals – that could land you in jail. And, of course, that could lead to a strip search.”
    That says it all.

  • April

    Kudos Alex!

  • Here is an Op-ed from an Iowa Paper:
    Our View: Beef industry should call off the witch hunt
    Conspiracy theories?!
    Is that really the next PR strategy from the beef industry and the politicians rushing to the industry’s aid?!
    We’ve already said that the so-called “pink slime” is no worse than a number of other products in our industrialized food environment. Without any evidence that it’s harmful, “pink slime” doesn’t deserve to be the subject of the current outrage du jour.
    But a conspiracy?!
    “We need to get to the bottom of this,” an indignant and over-the-top Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday as he explained how he was asking Rep. Steve King to hold congressional hearings on the topic. “We need find out who’s behind it and why they are doing it.”
    Well … Branstad, King and others can start by blaming the British. At least they can blame British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. After all, he devoted a whole show last year to describing how beef products that once were used only for dog food and cooking oil have made it into school lunches. And Oliver has been campaigning for the past decade to get British schoolchildren to eat healthier foods, and for the past few years he’s been pushing for Americans to get off their addiction to fast food.
    Then they can start blaming the local food movement. After all, locavores are very interested in learning where their food comes from, how it is processed and how it is grown. (Some of them won’t eat beef unless they can find the farmer and the processor and learn what the cow’s name was first?)
    Then they can blame government bureaucrats. At least they can blame Gerald Zirnstein, the former U.S. government microbiologist who coined the phrase “pink slime” in an internal email about a decade ago. In recent interviews, Zirnstein said he wasn’t looking to be a “whistleblower,” he was just a little grossed out that these once discarded beef products were being mixed with hamburger without needing any extra labels.
    Or maybe they should just blame the basic paranoia of a public who already seems ready to believe that someone, somewhere is working some kind of nefarious scheme against them.
    Oh … wait.
    That basic paranoia is what this new strategy is counting on.
    The beef industry and its supporters are going to fight paranoia with paranoia.
    They’re just going to change the boogeyman from the beef industry itself to some nameless, anti-beef force out there that is yet to be exposed.
    The beef industry really should learn from its own history and just let this one go. After all, back in the 1990s, the industry didn’t let it go when Oprah Winfrey declared she would never eat another hamburger because of fears of mad cow disease. And its heavy-handed response then dragged out that outrage du jour for months longer than the non-story deserved.
    And the governor’s stridency on this issue, unfortunately, completely runs counter to his call for having Iowa become the healthiest state. If Branstad is really serious about improving the state’s overall health, then he actually should be advising people to follow nutritionists’ advice and consider cutting back on their beef intake.
    Even if eating a pink slime burger — a “slimer slider”? — isn’t any healthier or unhealthier than eating a burger made with locally raised, non-finely textured ground beef, eating too many burgers definitely will be unhealthy.
    As food guru Michael Pollan suggests in his “Defense of Food: An Eaters’ Manifesto”: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
    Rather than hunt for boogeymen, the beef industry and the politicians should be working together to ensure that these products are labeled accurately and then give people a choice on whether they want to continue to purchase them.
    http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20120405/OPINION03/304050023/Our-View-Beef-industry-should-call-off-witch-hunt

  • Paul F Schwarz

    Branstad, King, Alex and others want us to eat dog food filler and like it! Don’t we as consumers deserve to know what the industry is trying to push out the doors to us? Tools is accurate in describing these folks.
    The party that those folks are affiliated with control a congress that won’t hold hearings about the Jensen Farms listeria outbreak, but will grant hearings about contraception (only men were witnesses), cruise ship tragedies (my heart goes out to the victims and families), AARP and Planned Parenthood to name a few. These so-called hearings had nothing to do with food safety or the lack of food safety in our nation!
    Branstad and others only care about the bottom line of BPI and other corporations in the food industry at the expense of the health of the American people! No longer is the phrase ‘we the people’ hold true. The new slogan is ‘we the corporation’!
    Our family still mourns the loss of Paul A Schwarz Jr! Back in the summer he ate listeria tainted cantaloupe from Jensen Farms resulting in his eventual death on the 18th of December 2011.
    Section 51 Row 1 Grave 3 Ft Leavenworth/Leavenworth National Cemetery

  • Lady J.

    I say let the hearings go forward. With all the ducking and diving and crap-throwing that’s going on we certainly smell smoke. I’m interested to see what turns up. If it’s nothing I can stand the disappointment. If it is something then Branstad and our American food producers will be vindicated. “Justice for all”, remember? It isn’t like we’re consigning professional anti-industry hatemongers to Guantanamo (yet, anyway, but it’s an enticing idea). We just want to ask them a few questions. Just want to hear and understand their side of the issue. This will be another platform for them to smugly blow their hateful propaganda all over us if they are in the right, faultless, as you assert. Hearings didn’t harm John Corzyn or others in the Wall Street crowd, why should equally self-important professional smear campaigners be apprehensive of a once-in-a-lifetime public interview? C’mon, they can’t be too busy designing food labels to find time to sit down with Congressmen for a couple hours. If the speaker promises they won’t be strip searched would they feel more inclined to play along with hearings? They are being handed an incredible opportunity to prove themselves blameless and tell Branstad and the nation to suck it, in the process. To pass that up there must be something pretty damning to hide. Awfully smoky in here.

  • Sam

    1) Thank you Alex for helping us understand the “logic” used by the meat industry. Your posting was thought provoking. Now let the adults talk…
    2) Bill, how can I get a ticket to this hearing?

  • David Terry

    Why do you not mention Disney, owner of ABC, donating $12,337,911 with 68% going to democratic party? How much did ABC give you?

  • Your comment that I would take money from ABC or Disney is laughable. I am about to sue Disney in a food poisoning case. Re Dems or Repubs, here is what I said the other day in a post:
    “do not play the political card. Sure, you have given hundreds of thousands of dollars (perhaps millions) to politicians (hopefully from both parties – Republicans and Democrats will equally prostitute themselves), but do not make them dance in support of your product as they try to explain that the money you threw at them has no bearing on their willingness to dance. And, please do not make them eat your product or say how safe it is in front of the national media. No one will believe people that you paid to endorse your product. Remember, politicians are considered only slightly more trustworthy than lawyers, however, both are in single digits.”
    http://www.marlerblog.com/lawyer-oped/blue-barf-green-goop-purple-puke-red-rubbish-or-yellow-yuck/

  • Larry Andrew

    To be consistent, I think we should have the hearing the Gov and King are asking for. So far, they have shown that they favor consumer ignorance of the contents of their hamburgers. Why not see if they try that out at the hearing?
    Best I can tell, most are not arguing against the BPI product but for better labelling. Let’s see where that argument goes?

  • Pallidan

    What are our heroic skulking anti-agriculture scabs afraid of all of a sudden? Give them a keyboard and there is no end to their brave vocal outrage, their terrifying dire warnings, their ambitious smearing hysteria. Offer them a microphone in front of Congress, they clam up tight and slink into the shadows. What kind of folk superhero does that? The fraudulent slandering kind, probably. I think Gov. Branford has done a pretty slick job of calling your bluff, noble internet vandals.

  • Thanks for continuing to provide great coverage of this issue, Mr. Marler. As you noted in an earlier comment, it was only a few weeks ago that Mr. Branstad also signed into law the “ag gag” bill, HF 589, which is another explicit attack on press freedoms, similarly designed to keep Big Ag’s questionable practices from becoming public knowledge. If you’re looking for a conspiracy, look no farther than Branstad and his corporate ag financiers.

  • Papa Ray

    Wow! Not just a “tool” but a “pathetic tool”? Wow!! Now tell us how you really feel, Bill.

  • tamara

    Branstad said that the product “helps reduce obesity”. I think he should be sued for false advertisement.
    I suggest Brandstad put his mouth where his mouth is and replace all of the meat he’s currently eating with the processed scraps.

  • Dr. Spock

    Good for you Gov. Branford. Someone has to be the grownup. Bring the hearings. Real American consumers suspect there are a few spoiled hatemongering internet vandals who might benefit from a time-out. But of course we want to be fair about it, so bring on the hearings!

  • Barney

    What does the First Amendment mean for villains who scream fire in a crowded theater? It is definitely time for a refresher on that.
    It is as good a time as any to initiate a discussion of how the internet may or may not represent a “crowded theater”. Interesting when one considers, from a purely historical perspective, the internet is a contemporary source of entertainment and information for many ordinary people, just as movies and newsreels were for our grandparents and great-grandparents. Of course, H. G. Wells got away with fatally panicking Americans with his “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast way back then. Fodder for an interesting legal discussion!
    Hearings could be the smartest thing to come out of the silly hysteria surrounding this stupid “pink slime” science fiction mania. Let’s convene the hearings…if implicated scaremongers will step up and tell us the truth — they should be eager to preach but they seem strangely mortified by the suggestion. Not very convincing behavior on their part if they sincerely believe internet broadcasting is purely innocuous fun and games. This may be giving Americans a wrong negative impression of activist hatemongers. Congressional hearings would be an ideal opportunity for them to make us understand all the wonderful good they are doing for us.

  • SS

    Bill, thank you for this delightful read. Watching the 3 groveling governors and several other sycophants act out as a lynch mob, while eating adulterated burgers, confirmed to me we live in corrupt and strange times. I think there should indeed be a congressional investigation. But not an investigation against people exercising their first amendment rights. No, the investigation should center on Under Secretary Smith, the USDA, the beef industry, said sycophants & misc grovelers, and BPI.

    The BPI investigation should fully uncover how our nation’s ground beef got laced with pink slime without requiring labels. It should also document ALL money that changed hands; from Smith to sycophants. It should end with several people in prison, several on display in public stocks, plus all must return ill gotten gains.

    From ABC News (one of the many good guys exercising their first amendment rights about pink slime)…

    The “pink slime” does not have to appear on the label because, over objections of its own scientists, USDA officials with links to the beef industry labeled it meat.

    “The under secretary Smith said, ‘it’s pink, therefore it’s meat,’” Custer told ABC News.

    ABC News has learned the woman who made the decision to OK the mix is a former undersecretary of agriculture, Joann Smith. It was a call that led to hundred of millions of dollars for Beef Products Inc., the makers of pink slime.

    When Smith stepped down from the USDA in 1993, BPI’s principal major supplier appointed her to its board of directors, where she made at least $1.2 million over 17 years.

    Ref: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/03/70-percent-of-ground-beef-at-supermarkets-contains-pink-slime/

  • SDT

    Branstad should be the first to eat this slop,,, go ahead !!

  • Steve (from Fairfield, Ia)

    We could just stop eating meat. Or reduce the amount of meat eaten to a normal, healthy level. The average body only needs about 50-60g of protein a day. Considering half, or more (or all) should come from fruits, vegetables, legumes, etc., the amount of meat needed is negligible. An ounce, or less (or none) of beef a day should be satisfactory. This would reduce the need for large-scale, commercially-raised “livestock” resulting in smaller farms producing well-cared-for animals that are healthy and happy. This, in turn, might eliminate the huge corporations shoving junk through the television, into our eyes, our minds, and our throats. They wouldn’t need to use “I’m Loving it” with skinny people running around all happy and healthy. Have you been to a McDonalds lately? Driving by these places all I see are, mostly, overweight people with overweight children. I think this upsets me more than “pink slime”. Children don’t have a choice. They are brought up to eat what the parents eat, by example. This should be child endangerment. So if the Government wants to crack down on “pink slime”, why not find other avenues to dive into, also. It’s not the additives, chemicals, and other “what-not” that is put in food, but the information about what is in it. If someone genuinely doesn’t care what they are putting into their body, that is fine by me unless it affects a child without the ability to understand what is given to them to eat. So, lets get the parents who subject children to horrible diets of frozen “Banquet” meals every day, fast food every day, parents who give in at every little tantrum, a single, sugary, tear falling down a too chubby cheek for want of a candy bar.
    So, my point? Stop eating it and it might go away. If you don’t like it, don’t put it in your body or anyone else’s. Be kind to yourself, others and all living things.
    “Can you really ask what reason Pythagoras had for abstaining from flesh? For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of soul or mind the first man did so, touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, he who set forth tables of dead, stale bodies and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could his eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with the sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds?… It is certainly not lions and wolves that we eat out of self-defense; on the contrary, we ignore these and slaughter harmless, tame creatures without stings or teeth to harm us, creatures that, I swear, Nature appears to have produced for the sake of their beautyand grace. But nothing abashed us, not the flower-like tinting of the flesh, not the persuasiveness of the harmonious voice, not the cleanliness of their habits or the unusual intelligence that may be found in the poor wretches. No, for the sake of a little flesh we deprive them of sun, of light, of the duration of life to which they are entitled by birth and being.”
    —Plutarch