That’s right, more on Jonah, Howard Dean, and the USDA.

The J-Man had a cold the last few days, moving more stuff out his nose than I’d ever care to see. It also means we’ve had relatively little sleep here at Davison HQ. Made the important discovery, at 2 AM, that the humidifer we’ve been using seems to keep him awake. No idea how that didn’t dawn on us before. Did I mention the sleep deprivation?

Jonah’s pulling himself up nicely nowadays and will even slide/walk along walls. I can leave him in an area for a few moments to grab a glass of water or answer a phone since he doesn’t move all that quickly yet, but that’s sure not to last too much longer. Given the amount of attention he requires, my days of Perry Mason are history. (I’ll always have a thing for Della, though.)

I watched excerpts of Howard Dean’s supposed “melt-down” Iowa concession speech from Monday night. I have no idea what the media hubbub is except that Dean represents a fundamental challenge to Big Business, and Big Media is Big Business. Since most of the media (particuarly cable commentators) are somewhere between right-wing and fascist, any chance they get to damage Dean’s candidacy they’ll take. Honestly, Monday night’s rally—where Dean was thanking and exhorting his college-age volunteers for their three weeks in Iowa—if that’s how you pick or reject your presidential candidates, I dare say you deserve the president you get. Dean was having a good time, the crowd was having a good time, and this is nothing but a media-created firestorm (which isn’t to say, unfortunately, that it’s irrelevant). He may not win New Hampshire, but he still has the money and organization to win the nomination.

Every time in the last few months when I’ve reflected on the worthlessness of the USDA to protect our food supply, I think, “Well, it can’t get any worse.” And then I read another story about the USDA and am amazed all over again. First, it was the finding that meat suppliers any many cases pick the meat that the USDA will test. Can you say conflict of interest? What are the odds that the suppliers are picking at random or picking some hunk of beef that looks particularly iffy? In other words, what good is an independent testing agency if the testing procedures aren’t really independent? Indeed, the USDA’s own meat inspectors have come forward to say that the testing procedures are indequate.

Second, is this story from The Oregonian, which begins, “More than a million head of cattle are shipped from Canada to the United States each year. But when Canadians discovered a case of mad cow disease in May, the U.S. response was swift and certain: We need no new precautions.” See if you’re not as appalled as I am. Obviously I think you ought to be.

Third, did you know that the USDA declared a state of emergency in Washington State? The didn’t publicize it because, presumably, the don’t want us to stop scarfing our Whoppers, but being secretive about bad news doesn’t work in the long-term. (Mainly because it destroys your credibility. Maybe the USDA figured at this point that there was no downside.)

Finally, the issue of downer cows reemerged today. Set aside that the Bush administration waited until it was a major problem before removing downer cows from the human food chain. (The Democrats had a bill last year that would’ve removed downers. The Republicans killed it.) Today we read in the news that the Mad Cow that started this whole public relations mess for the beef industry wasn’t a downer cow! The USDA classifed it as such, but three workers at the plant told The Oregonian that’s wrong. The cow could walk just fine. So removing downers, while undoubtedly making the beef supply safer, turns out to be insufficient, a word that should be branded across the USDA logo.

Once again, I can only conclude that if you’re trusting the USDA, you’re trusting an organization that’s gladly put the interests of the US beef industry ahead of your health and safety. I say buy organic beef or go vegetarian. The US beef supply may be relatively safe (or not!), but thanks to the USDA and the cattlemen’s assocation, we have absolutely no way of knowing.