August 30, 2011
CONSENSUS WATCH – 8/30/2011
An ongoing series dedicated to vigorously monitoring emerging threats to The Consensus that global warming is real, caused by humans, and must be addressed at all costs. Because without consensus, scientific conclusions would remain vulnerable to new data.
It is a disgrace that there are still those who would attack the integrity of scientists who support the Consensus. These global warming denialists slander them with the lie that they are making up the science in order to make money. Such attempts to delegitimize people through character assassination must stop.
This is not to be confused with the 100% legitimate tactic of accusing those who don’t support the Consensus of being a lot like racists. That’s perfectly okay, according to Al Gore, former Vice President and millionaire global warming businessman, because as he sees it, supporting today’s Consensus on global warming is a lot like supporting the civil rights movement back in the 1960s. In the former, a group of government-funded researchers are attempting to shield a scientific theory from further scrutiny, and in the latter, an entire race of people were systematically denied fundamental human rights as guaranteed under our Constitution.
In terms of the “moral component,” it’s really just two sides of the same coin. A really thick coin.
For example, let’s say you point out to a friend that data gathered regarding moisture and temperature readings in the tropical upper troposphere seem to be at odds with current Consensus models. What you've basically just said, is that only whites should be allowed to ride in the front of the bus.
You should be ashamed of yourself.
What can we do about this transparent anti-global warming racism? As Al Gore says, we must work to “win the conversation,” when it comes to the Consensus:
“There came a time when friends or people you work with or people you were in clubs with — you’re much younger than me so you didn’t have to go through this personally — but there came a time when racist comments would come up in the course of the conversation and in years past they were just natural. Then there came a time when people would say, ‘Hey, man why do you talk that way, I mean that is wrong. I don’t go for that so don’t talk that way around me. I just don’t believe that.’ That happened in millions of conversations and slowly the conversation was won.”
Yes, it can be difficult and awkward, but you can do it. Here’s an example:
A Friend: Did you see that peer-reviewed paper that demonstrated the sensitivity of the climate system to an imposed radiative imbalance remains the largest source of uncertainty in projections of future anthropogenic climate change?
You: Hey, man why do you talk that way, I mean that is wrong. I don’t go for that.
A Friend: What? I’m just saying that satellite-based metrics for the period 2000–2010 depart substantially in the direction of lower climate sensitivity from those similarly computed from coupled climate models, which calls into question their accuracy.
You: Don’t talk that way around me. I just don’t believe that.
There’s a chance your friend will be hurt and confused by this confrontation. You need to explain that you’re not accusing him of prejudice, but rather “postjudice.” Postjudice is when you form an opinion about something only after you’ve examined all the available evidence.
For example, let’s say you come across a study demonstrating that that cosmic rays spur the formation of clouds through ion-induced nucleation providing support for a "heliocentric" rather than "anthropogenic" approach to climate change.
If you then conclude that current climate models will have to be revisited and the role of the sun taken into greater account regarding climate change, you’re just being postjudice. If instead, you had approached the subject having already made up your mind that humans driving SUVs cause global warming, and instruct those involved to keep their opinions to themselves, you could avoid creating all this awkwardness in the first place.
This will not be easy, but then, it never has been easy, has it?
I have a dream that one day at an IPCC conference, the sons of former denialists and the sons of former Consensus supporters will be able to sit down together and agree the Consensus supporters were right.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of global warming, sweltering from runaway CO2 production, will be transformed into an oasis of solar cells sold by Al Gore-owned companies.
I have a dream that UN reports on global warming will one day be judged not by the content of their research, but by the color of their covers.
I have a dream today…
Now you have a chance to show your support for The Consensus with the Shut up, that’s why T-shirt, the perfect answer to anyone who dares to question the science behind global warming.
In addition to the T-shirt we also have a fashionable beach tote and a set of stackable mugs, so you’ll have the opportunity to show the world that you’re smart enough to know when not to ask too many questions.
And while you're at it, make sure the world knows you won't allow yourself to be bullied by facts with our extensive line of CONSENSUS WATCH MERCHANDISE!
We also have the classic Consensus Watch coffee mug, bag, and beer stein (along with assorted T-shirts, sweatshirts, and other garments): "Consensus Watch Because without consensus, scientific conclusions would remain vulnerable to new data" plus a complete line of "Stop raping the planet! You may, however, touch it inappropriately," items (shirts, coasters, stickers, buttons)
All proceeds raised from the sale of Consensus Watch merchandise go towards ensuring that we never run out of gin.
August 29, 2011
Hurricane Irene – Epilogue
For those of you who followed our live blog over the weekend, you have our thanks and gratitude for your well wishes and support. It’s hard not knowing where your next full iPad charge is going to come from, or finding yourself desperately scrambling in the dark for something, anything, that will let you know how long it takes for beer to get warm in a closed refrigerator.
While Planet Moron HQ continues to be without power, that has less to do with the widespread swath of destruction brought on by the fury of Hurricane Irene (or as we like to call it around here, “Really Bad Storm Irene” and more to do with the fact that an old tree finally fell over on some power lines down the street. (As one of the neighborhood dog walkers told me this morning, "I thought everyone had their power back on.")
They are making important progress on repairs, however, having already begun work on marking the area off with yellow tape. And that was all just in the first 36 hours, so we fully expect to have power in time for the holiday. Not Labor Day, probably more like Thanksgiving.
Regarding rainfall totals, based on our “How Much Water Collected in The Passenger Foot Well of our ’97 Grand Cherokee” gauge, it was “a lot.”
As you can see, there is still quite a bit of dampness, and this was after we'd already bailed out the initial 3/8 of an inch. Usually, we expect no more than a quarter inch of water after a storm.
Truly, we are blessed.
We are also relieved to report that cannibalism did not break out in the New York Mercantile Exchange as first feared, nor did hurricane-spawned zombies roam the streets of Queens (those were just Mets fans), but that was almost certainly due to Mayor Bloomberg’s superb preparations in advance of the storm and not the fact that the storm fell somewhat short of expectations.
Finally, no account of a natural disaster would be complete without first blaming it on global warming, followed by the requisite juxtaposition of images of both destruction and rebirth, illustrating that beauty and/or life endures even in the face of great blah blah blah.
We hope to return to our regularly scheduled snark by tomorrow.
August 27, 2011
Hurricane Irene - Live Blog
I'll keep adding updates as long as I can, knowing that this very well may be the only record that survives the approaching calamity, and by "only record" I mean other than the millions of tweets and Facebook entries and thousands of independent news reports.
Saturday, 11:17 AM: Earlier this morning we went to the local farmer's market and were almost brought to tears by the courage and determination of our fellow citizens who, in the face of the looming danger, somehow found the will and perseverance to procure for their families basic survival necessities, such as cave-aged artisan cheeses, organic free range chicken eggs, and fresh-picked arugula.
Even now, as the first lashing waves of light drizzle descend upon the region, I can see our neighbors making final preparations, probably the most important of which is ensuring that the lawn gets mowed.
That's how you know it's going to be a bad one. Who knows how long it might be before FEMA can get lawn care companies in here.
Saturday, 11:56 AM: As I sit here drinking the iced latte I bought earlier at the farmer's market, I wonder, will this be the last iced latte I ever have? This weekend? It might be. It might be.
Saturday, 12:21 PM: We see on the news that New York City is shutting down all mass transit systems and its airports due to the approaching storm.
The last hurricane to hit the Big Apple was Gloria in 1985, which made landfall on Long Island, causing damage consistent with a category 3 storm. I lived there at the time, but this was back when New York was a bit tougher, when it was more likely you'd come across a dominatrix walking through Times Square than a Disney character. (Come to think of it, back then, you could have run into a dominatrix dressed like a Disney character.) Rather than being left stranded in my apartment with no way to get around, I just hopped on the Staten Island Ferry to work.
But like they say, better safe cowering in a fetal position than sorry!
Saturday, 1:39 PM: Despite the storm, Mrs. Moron had something "important" to take care of. In fact, I received a mysterious text message a short time ago that read, "target acquired."
Saturday, 1:40 PM: Correction: The text message read, "acuiring some things at Target." Okay, that's not as mysterious.
Saturday, 4:17 PM: As a storm approaches, it's usually a good idea to check up on your disaster emergency preparedness kit. I cracked ours open a short while ago.
Now that I think about it, the disaster I was preparing for was the coming zombie Apocalypse. Kind of wishing I'd tossed a couple of batteries in there too.
Saturday, 6:31 PM: The wind and rain has been picking up so I decided it was time to get the dogs out before it got worse, taking special care to avoid standing underneath large trees. Let's just say that when they wrote the song of John Henry, they did not have him dying "with a pooper scooper in his hand."
Saturday, 6:40 PM: You know what really messes up your shot at an emmy for courageous reporting in the face of unfathomable danger? When, while out in the unfathomable danger, you are surrounded by residents who feel un-endangered enough that one drops his shorts while you're on live TV. Yeah, that's just not helpful.
Saturday, 9:00 PM: Excuse me for the absence, but we were huddling together with fellow neighbors fearing for our lives. Okay, we went over to a neighbor's house for dinner, fearing we'd run out of beer.
Sunday, 12:22 AM: Our local government here in Arlington County has set up a helpful "Irene-cam" for residents curious as to the current conditions outside, a service for which we are grateful as otherwise we'd have to get up from the computer and look out the window.
Sunday, 1:03 AM: Disaster management professionals have long understood the important role hysteria plays in any crisis. Doing his part, New York City Mayor Bloomberg is warning city residents that it's too late to run:
This is only common sense as the edge of Irene has brought to New York winds that are not tropical storm strength. It is not clear whether the mayor plans on making it standard city policy to keep all eight million resident indoors when it rains.
Sunday, 10:25 AM: We survived the night, but not without losing power and Internet. We're living like animals! If animals had an iPad.
August 25, 2011
Let Freedom Ring! However, You’re Going To Need a Permit For The Bell.
Welcome to the inaugural edition of “Let Freedom Ring! However, You’re Going To Need a Permit For The Bell,” a periodic series in which we explore the new and exciting ways in which the notions of freedom and liberty are being interpreted today.
Rescuing a Baby Woodpecker.
OLD: An act of kindness.
NEW: A Violation of the Federal Migratory Bird Act.
An eleven-year-old girl came to the rescue of a baby woodpecker that was about to become a meal for her father’s cat. Not being able to find the bird’s mother, but still fearing for the bird’s safety, she and her mother took it upon themselves to care for the bird until it was ready to be released, a true example of both independent initiative and selflessness, indeed the very embodiment of the American spirit.
And that’s where the trouble started.
Confronted a short while later by a Fed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the small girl and her mother were informed that they were in violation of the federal Migratory Bird Act. While they released the bird safely a short while later they were visited a couple of weeks later by the same Fed who had caught them, this time accompanied by an armed state trooper (hey, the little girl was now a known felon). The mother was issued a $535 fine and told she could face up to a year in jail.
You know what they say, “Don’t be kind, if you can’t do the time.”
Later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it was all a crazy misunderstanding and that they had never intended to issue the fine, send one of their officials, request armed escort, or threaten the mother with a year in jail in front of her terrified daughter.
The lesson? If you really care about endangered migratory bird species, just let the cat eat the bird next time.
Tearing Down Your Old Chain Link Fence.
OLD: Sprucing up your property.
NEW: Removing an important contextual clue to the original occupants of the neighborhood.
Wanting to improve her property, a homeowner in Alexandria Virginia replaced a dilapidated chain link fence with a brand new black aluminum fence. When zoning officials came out to the property to check on an unrelated matter, they noticed the missing chain link fence. They were aghast, asking if it could be recovered and reinstalled, thus returning the property to its historically important rundown roots:
"While many feel that [chain-link] fences have negative connotations, this material has played an important role in the development of mid-century vernacular housing and their cultural landscape.... By eradicating this 'simple fencing solution,' the applicant would be removing an important contextual clue to the original occupants of this neighborhood."
We’ll be honest, we did not consider what important role historical preservationists might think our stained fifty-year-old Formica counter tops might have played in our neighborhood’s cultural landscape when we renovated the kitchen. (Best guess: “Tacky.”)
At the moment at least, the homeowner is being allowed to keep her new fence, however we suggest she find other ways to celebrate her mid-century vernacular housing, such as parking on the front lawn. Sure, parking on your front lawn may have negative connotations, but this “simple parking solution,” will ensure the important contextual clues to the original occupants will be preserved. (Even more so, if she can find mid-century cinder blocks for the wheels.)
OLD: A harmless hobby that edifies and delights.
NEW: A violation of The Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.
The Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act addresses the very real problem inherent in the belief that property belongs to people who purchased it, rather than people who did not. The forced transfer of property from people who own it to people who don’t is called “repatriation,” however you are cautioned not to try to “repatriate” your neighbor’s wallet, as that would be considered theft. The difference? Shut up, that’s the difference.
Most recently, a judge dismissed a case brought by a Missouri-based nonprofit that had attempted to import coins originally minted in China and Cyprus which had been purchased in London, but which were seized by U.S. Customs under an agreement with Cyprus and China forbidding the importation of coins from their countries.
“Wait,” you are probably saying to yourself, “Cyprus is a country?” Also, “If they bought the coins in London, what’s the problem?
The problem is they couldn’t prove the coins origin. (We would guess China and Cyprus.) When it comes to deciding between the interests of American citizens, and complying with agreements which they were not party to made by executive order with foreign nations, we’re going to have to assume the Americans are guilty until proven innocent.
August 24, 2011
Our 21st-Century Regulatory System – Final Plans!
We continue to monitor the progress being made on President Obama’s “21st-Century Regulatory System” initiative intended to not only promote “economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation," but also to “root out regulations that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.”
As part of the President’s plan for, “an unprecedentedly ambitious government-wide review of existing federal regulations," Cass Sunstein, Administrator for the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs was charged earlier this year with overseeing the streamlining of our federal regulatory structure, a task for which he is no doubt well suited given that his job title alone takes two business cards to complete.
However, after months of work, he is excited to announce that agencies are releasing their final plans to reduce regulatory costs by $4 billion over the next five years which, according to his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) include:
“The Department of Health and Human Services will soon propose to remove unnecessary regulatory reporting requirements.”
“The Environmental Protection Agency will soon propose a rule to reduce burdens on hazardous-waste generators.”
“By the end of this year, the Internal Revenue Service will eliminate 55 million hours of paperwork burdens.”
Okay, so “final” means something different to Mr. Sunstein than it does to the rest of us, but still, you can tell that he has made great progress in reducing burdensome regulations by reviewing the 132 new regulatory actions currently under review, which include:
That last one is expected to help streamline regulations by an additional $90 billion a year in costs imposed on businesses and consumers. All we need are another 23 “unprecedentedly ambitious government-wide reviews of existing federal regulations, " and we’ll have this covered, no problem.
But that should not be surprising, as the President made clear that any streamlining of federal regulations would naturally include adding additional regulations such as those on deck from the FAA, FDA, USDA, and EPA.
Which reminds us, we have a great dieting tip for those of you out there looking to slim down your figure. All you have to do is cut out that morning bagel.
And add bacon, eggs, waffles, pancakes, ham, hash browns, home fries, biscuits…
August 23, 2011
The Day The Earth Didn’t Stand Still
As many of you have no doubt heard by now, an earthquake struck southern Virginia, sending shockwaves throughout the Washington, DC area, resulting in building evacuations, traffic jams, and what is believed will be widespread outbreaks of metaphors including, “the real earthquake hit DC last November,” “if you think things look shaky now, wait until you see the new deficit numbers,” and “Obama will need more than an earthquake to move the GOP-lead Congress.”
Regular readers know that Planet Moron is based in the DC metro area and so we thought we would provide you with our harrowing first-person account of the disaster:
1:53 PM: It shook a lot.
1:54 PM: It stopped.
We’ll be honest. We’ve never felt more alive than we do right now. It’s as if death himself came to pay a visit, but realized he had forgotten his wallet and so turned around and went home.
Okay, so that wasn’t as spine tingling as we could have hoped.
Fearing for their safety, many people fled the building we were in to take refuge exactly fifty feet outside of the building. Which is about twenty stories tall. And sheathed in glass.
We’re kind of new at this around here.
So far the death toll from the quake stands at a reported zero, with widespread lack of damage, but it can be crazy after a disaster, so those totals may be exaggerated.
In the meantime, Fox News is reporting that a police officer told a producer that the Washington Monument might be tilting, marking the official beginning of the Katrina phase of the natural disaster. We can all begin to look forward to thinly sourced headlines such as these:
“Cannibalism at the Federal Reserve”
“DC Considering Dynamiting Metro Tunnels in Desperate Effort to Hold Back Mole People Freed From Their Subterranean Prison”
“Donald Trump Reconsidering Presidential Run”
And for those of you lamenting the fact that the earth didn’t open up and swallow Congress, you should be ashamed of yourselves. You know better than that.
Congress is out of town.
August 22, 2011
No Lemonade, No Peace!
What would you do if you came across a small, peaceful protest on the grounds in front of the US Capitol in which the participants were demonstrating against authorities’ out-of-proportion responses to small, harmless transgressions?
If you’re the Capitol Police, you’re going to arrest them, handcuff them, and haul them off to jail.
It’s really the only way you’re going to convince them that they’re wrong.
Such was the fate of those participating in “Lemonade Freedom Day,” part of a nationwide event aimed at aiding and abetting an epidemic of lawlessness among our young people (addressed last month at Planet Moron) in which children blatantly attempt to sell lemonade at so-called “stands” in their neighborhoods without even trying to secure the proper permitting, licensing and food handling certification.
As part of the DC protest, participants set up a lemonade stand in front of the US Capitol and charged a symbolic ten cents for a cup of lemonade. Sure, this was primarily an act of free speech, but it was also a technical violation of federal vending ordinances.
That’s why the cops had no choice but to proceed in a clearly professional manner and carry out their duties by arresting the participants.
And also repeatedly roughing up their cameraman. Where these protesters get the idea that they can record public officials carryout out their public duties in a public space is beyond us. They want to do that, they can do it in the privacy of their own home.
Okay, so maybe she has some anger management issues.
That reminds us, DC residents are not allowed to carry firearms because they might be unbalanced.
It should be noted that the organizer of the national protest, Robert Fernandes, believes that “all human interactions should be based on voluntary cooperation,” so you know he’s clearly a violent threat, and the organizer of the local action, Eddie Free, is similarly violence-prone having earlier this summer promoted illegal dancing at the Jefferson Memorial, an action considered dangerous enough to have the SWAT team called out and the dancer/terrorists overseen by an officer with a machine gun.
Someone busts a move, he’s going to bust a skull.
While you could say the protestors had a bad day, what with being arrested, handcuffed, and shoved around for peacefully protesting in a public space, they did do one thing right.
They left their dogs home.
August 21, 2011
The War On Dogs – 8/21/2011
They go by many different names. “Animal Companion.” “Man’s Best Friend.” “Beloved Family Pet.” But police aren’t so easily fooled. They know those are all just common street names for dogs.
“The War on Dogs” is a periodic series chronicling the tireless efforts of the nation’s law enforcement officers to rid our society of the scourge of dogs.
June 20, 2011, Shelbyville, Kentucky: A sheriff’s deputy, responding to a burglar alarm came across a dog named Daisey in the back yard. Not knowing whether or not the Labrador Retriever, a notoriously vicious breed, had accomplices, and perhaps mistaking her dog collar for a Glock 9mm, the deputy pulled out his service weapon and shot her to death.
As it turns out, Daisey was not burgling the home, but lived there.
When asked why the deputy didn’t use pepper spray or his taser instead, Sheriff Mike Armstrong noted that, "Yes, there are options that he had available on his belt but, it takes longer to retrieve those pieces of equipment."
You know what’s quicker? Shooting the dog to death. Look, when you take that oath and pin that badge to your chest, you have taken on a sacred obligation to preserve and protect your own neck. Yes, sometimes that means you kill a little girl’s dog and make her cry, but that’s a price these public servants are willing to pay.
While tragic, Sheriff Armstrong thinks some good can come out of the situation by reviewing training, guidance and procedures.
And so the sheriff suggests it would be helpful if dog owners posted a sign that a dog is present, or perhaps let the alarm company know.
It was not clear if the police would use the information to send a SWAT team or perhaps call in an air strike.
July 25, 2011, Dayton, Texas: Fred, a black Labrador Retriever popular in his neighborhood and known as a friendly, loving dog snapped one Sunday morning and in what can only be described as a murderous, bloodthirsty rage, “nipped at the heels” of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy riding his bicycle. Naturally, the sheriff feared for his life, and so shot the dog dead. Now before you start accusing the deputy of overreacting, an internal investigation concluded that, “Marks on the officer’s shoes seem to match up with his story.”
You can say whatever you want, you can even point out the 13-year-old girl who will miss him “being there when I’m alone,” but it’s clear that dog was scuffing the deputy’s shoes, and scuffing them bad.
August 3, 2011, Birminghan, Michigan: While on patrol, two officers came upon a loose dog, “Buddy,” a Labrador mix. When approached, Buddy menacingly ran home, lunging for his front porch where he sat aggressively. Realizing that there is nothing more dangerous than a dog sitting on his front porch, and going by the 100% credible observation from a neighbor “not to trust that dog,” the officers decided to defuse the situation. As any trained law enforcement officer knows, the best way to calm a dog down is to have two complete strangers approach it on its own property with noose poles. To their surprise, Buddy did not react well to this, leaving the officers with no choice but to shoot him twice.
The officers’ supervisor was called to the scene, and drawing upon the zero years he had spent studying veterinary medicine, determined that the dog’s wounds were fatal and shot him to death on the ground, thus ending what can only be described as this vicious dog’s reign of front porch terror.
August 16, 2011, St. Petersburg, Florida: Fearful for the safety of himself and others, St. Petersburg resident Albert J. Proctor shot and killed his wife’s dog which he said had been acting aggressively and had gone after a neighbor. Upon determining that Mr. Proctor was not a law enforcement officer, he was charged with animal cruelty.
August 19, 2011, Chicago Heights, Ill: Responding to a noise complaint, a police officer pulled into the driveway of Michael Ambriz’s home. His dog, Bella, ran to see who was there and “lunged” at the officer. Given the inherent dangers involved in any noise complaint, and the very real possibility that more noise was imminent, the officer shot and killed her. The owner’s father, Juan Esparza, who had been grilling hot dogs for himself and Bella, came out to see what was going on, and said the officer pointed his gun at him, cursed, and left.
Police Chief Michael Camilli helpfully pointed out that, “These guys don’t get paid to get bit.” He did not address directly whether they get paid to drive to people's homes, shoot their pets, and drive away.
The incident is being 100% investigated in a completely fair and impartial matter, which you can tell by the fact that Police Chief Camilli noted that there was “no evidence” that the police officer pointed his gun at Juan Esparza.
Other than Juan Esparza’s eyewitness account, that is.
Before we conclude, special mention goes to the Durham, North Carolina SWAT team for quick thinking and a display of valor above and beyond the call of duty.
After having detained suspects they had been seeking at a Dunston Avenue home, SWAT team members went to enter the house to ensure no one else was there. However, a black lab named Sheba was sitting on the porch off to the side at the top of the stairs. As the SWAT team approached, heavily clad in Kevlar, pads, helmets, and visors, Sheba sat motionless as can be seen in the video below. The closer they came, the more motionless she became until her motionlessness simply presented too great a danger. Not wanting the situation to escalate into violence, or risk the well-being of people sitting outside nearby, the lead officer opened fire with an automatic rifle with people sitting outside nearby.
A happy ending? Sure. This time. We can only hope SWAT teams nationwide take a lesson from this and incorporate it into their training. As Shakespeare might have put it:
'The first thing we do, let's kill all the dogs”
To help you show your support, be sure to purchase an official "War on Dogs" T-shirt:
With your help, and the good marksmanship of the nation's law envorcement officers, we may someday once and for all rid our streets of dogs.
August 19, 2011
Press 1 For English. Press 2 If You Feel Like Tearing Your Hair Out By Its Roots…
Q : I farm north of here. We enjoy growing corn and soybeans, and we feel we do it as safely and efficiently as we possibly can… Please don’t challenge us with more rules and regulations from Washington, D.C., that hinder us from doing that. We would prefer to start our day in a tractor cab or combine cab rather than filling out forms and permits to do what we’d like to do. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ve got the Secretary of Agriculture right now, so is there a particular -- is there a particular rule that you’re worried about?
Q: We hear what’s coming down about noise pollution, dust pollution, water runoff. Sometimes the best approach is just common sense, and we are already using that.
Realizing that in all likelihood, this farmer never attended Harvard Law and so was probably not as familiar with farming as the President was, Obama tried to gently suggest the farmer get his facts straight first:
“If you hear something is happening, but it hasn’t happened, don’t always believe what you hear. (Laughter and applause.) No -- and I’m serious about that…”
“If you ever have a question as to whether we’re putting something in place that’s going to make it harder for you to farm, contact USDA. Talk to them directly. Find out what it is that you’re concerned about. My suspicion is a lot of times they’re going to be able to answer your questions and it will turn out that some of your fears are unfounded.”
Politico reporter MJ Lee decided to talk to the USDA directly as the President suggested, and get an answer to the farmer’s question.
So she called the USDA which told her to call the Illinois Department of Agricultural who sent her to the Illinois Farm Bureau who put her in touch with their government affairs department who didn’t know who she should talk to. So she called the Illinois Department of Agricultural again who sent her to the department director’s office who put her in touch with the agriculture products inspection department who put her in touch with someone at environmental programs who forwarded her name to the Illinois EPA. She never heard back.
The next day, she called the USDA's local office in Henry County, Ill., where the town hall took place where she is asked if she tried googling it first. She says she’s a reporter and is referred to the USDA’s office in Champaign where she is told they can’t help her. She calls the USDA’s main media relations department, explains what she has been trying to do, the multiple phone calls and general runaround, and received a response via email explaining in great detail how noise and dust regulation is not the USDA’s job.
Also, it’s not their fault:
“Secretary Vilsack continues to work closely with members of the Cabinet to help them engage with the agricultural community to ensure that we are separating fact from fiction on regulations because the administration is committed to providing greater certainty for farmers and ranchers. Because the question that was posed did not fall within USDA jurisdiction, it does not provide a fair representation of USDA’s robust efforts to get the right information to our producers throughout the country.”
As it turns out, it’s true that the President should have suggested that the farmer call the Environmental Protection Agency regarding regulations on agriculture and not the Department of Agriculture which could not possibly know anything about regulations on agriculture. So she tried that next:
After calling the EPA’s main number, she is told to contact “Region 5,” where she is transferred to somebody who deals with “clean air,” who asks if she tried checking the Internet yet. She is then given contact numbers for two more people who are not there. She calls the regional office where it is explained to her that, “Normally Friday is not a good time — a lot of people don’t work on Friday.” When Ms. Lee explains that it is Thursday, she is told that, “some people take Wednesday or Thursday off, too.” She is told to contact two more people one of whom is an “environmental engineer,” who tells her to talk to the person in the air and radiation division where she already left a message. That person calls back and explains she would need to know about what kind of dust she’s talking about but would be happy to talk to the farmer about that. Contacting an EPA spokesperson, she is told via email that she doesn’t need to worry about it:
“Farm dust: This is a myth the Administrator has debunked personally on several occasions. While EPA is mandated by the CAA to review air quality standards for pollutants like farm dust every five years, and that review is currently ongoing, we have no plans to put stricter standards in place. That review, at Administrator's direction, has involved extensive outreach to farmers and ranchers.”
Clearly, it’s a myth that they are considering stricter standards on farm dust, only that they are required by law to review the matter, a scientific board has recommended to them that they should put in place stricter standards, that their staff has recommended either retaining or putting in place stricter standards, and in any case the “review is currently ongoing.”
But to suggest that they are considering putting in place stricter standards? It’s obviously a preposterous myth with no basis whatsoever in fact.
You see, like the President said, all you had to do was call the government to get the truth.
August 17, 2011
Presidential Bus Tour Q&A
With the President getting ready to wrap up his bus tour of the Midwest, we thought a brief FAQ on the trip might prove helpful to our readers:
Q: What was this bus tour all about?
A: It’s about one thing and one thing only: Jobs.
Q: That’s good to hear. What is the President’s plan for jobs?
A: You mean right now?
Q: Yes, right now.
A: He doesn’t know yet.
Q: I thought you said this was a jobs tour.
A: That’s numero uno on his agenda, yes.
Q: And he doesn’t know?
A: Oh, of course he knows. As he said the other day, “My basic attitude is we know what to do.”
Q: Then what’s he going to do?
A: He’s going to give a speech.
Q: How is a speech going to create jobs?
A: In that speech, he’ll tell you what he’s going to do to create jobs.
Q: You said he already knows what to do.
A: He does!
Q: Then why doesn’t he just tell us now?
A: Because the speech isn’t until September.
Q: Fine, fine, can you at least give us a hint as to what kind of ideas he plans on laying out?
A: Sure. “Fresh ones, not a rehash of plans he has pitched for many weeks.”
Q: Okay, like what?
A: He’s thinking of extending the payroll tax cut, adding some infrastructure spending and maybe some job training programs.
Q: That’s not fresh.
A: Are you sure? We think that’s pretty fresh.
Q: It’s the same stuff that was part of the stimulus bill.
A: That’s not ringing any bells.
Q: If they’re proposing to extend a payroll tax cut, it must already exist.
A: Yeah, but that’s last year’s payroll tax cut. The President is talking about a new, fresh, payroll tax cut that’s identical to last year’s.
Q: Well, at least those big, shiny, multi-million-dollar buses created some jobs.
A: You bet they did.
A: In Canada.
Q: They bought the buses in Canada?
A: Canadians need jobs too.
Q: What else is he saying on the jobs tour?
A: He’s attacking Republicans and urging people to vote them out of office.
Q: Well, we shouldn’t be surprised, it is a campaign trip, after all.
A: Actually, this is official Presidential business, not a campaign trip.
Q: What’s the difference?
A: You’re paying for it.
Q: We’re going now.
A: Wait, don’t you want to hear about how food stamps create jobs?...