Here Comes The Rain Again
August 27, 2002 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Here Comes The Rain Again Virginia Gov. Mark Warner has decided to prove that he's a tough-on-acts-of-god kind of governor. He's no wimp when it comes to weather, our governor. Nosireebob. He's gonna show that weather who's boss! He's appointed a drought czar. "Drought czar?" What's next? An education czar? A jaywalking czar? A stop-breathing-through-your-nose-on-the-elevator-please-goddammit czar? Talk about your linguistic inflation.
posted by NedKoppel (19 comments total)
Are you suggesting I should breathe through my mouth while using elevators? How 'bout a snorkel for escalator/ moving walkway trips?
posted by yerfatma at 11:35 AM on August 27, 2002

Nearly as worthless as a "drug czar."
posted by hackly_fracture at 11:38 AM on August 27, 2002

For the life of me, I cannot figure out where the term "czar" was first used to describe an American bureaucrat. I did, however, find this interesting little tidbit, which rather insightfully equates "czar" to "scapegoat". Attach someone's name to a problem, and when the problem isn't solved, blame that person.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:55 AM on August 27, 2002

So the vegetable - forgive me, ex-president - known as Ronnie Reagan coined the term "drug czar" way back when we were still fightin' the commies and whatnot, right? So was the coinage of the royalist term supposed to convey to the Russian people our solidarity with the pre-Soviet royalty? You know what I mean? It's peculiar. Why not the Drug Dauphin? The Drug Poo-bah?

And as a corollary, if Tom Ridge is the Terror Czar, doesn't that make John Ashcroft Rasputin?
posted by DenOfSizer at 12:04 PM on August 27, 2002

Having recently spent a week in Virginia, cruising some of those great historical hotspots in the central part of the state, I can only applaud any measure that might be useful for educating the public about why droughts affect everyone and why everyone needs to aware of how they're using water and how they're behaving in the environment.

It got really tiresome watching frantic Virginians reminding out of state tourists to put their damned cigarettes into safe containers (because the fire risk was off the high end of the charts) while their neighbors were using high volume lawn sprinklers in the middle of the afternoon. (Even on the day when it was 102 degrees.) I hate the term czar, I hate that this is what's required to get the message through to people, but if it works, so be it.

(Btw, when did the Washington Post start collecting user data - via an "incremental gathering server" and demanding cookies be accepted before articles could be read?)
posted by Dreama at 12:12 PM on August 27, 2002

he should hire weatherman John John Mackie, he makes weather his bitch.
posted by Mick at 12:17 PM on August 27, 2002

Actually, Den, I'm pretty sure that the drug czar was around at least since Nixon. I think that Nixon started the Office of Drug Control Policy; not sure about the term "czar" though. I'm almost certain that Bourne was referred to as the "drug czar" under Carter. My history is pretty fuzzy though, and google's not helping much.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:19 PM on August 27, 2002

What central part of the state, Dreama?

The parts of the state that are worst off are under mandatory water restrictions. (Spotsylvania, Stafford, Fredericksburg, which are all historical 'hotspots') This includes: no outdoor watering, no washing cars or homes, restaurants only serving water upon request, no sprinklers, etc.

We're not under mandatory restrictions (we have the birthplace of Washington, Lee, and Monroe here) because the residents have, so far, done enough on their own.
posted by SuzySmith at 12:20 PM on August 27, 2002

Williamsburg and James City County (Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown) have been placed under what the board of supervisors are calling a new "Permanent Mandatory Water Restriction" which will extend into the next few years...

I think the idea of a "Drought Czar" is a public relations effort on the part of the Mr. Warner to boost confidence in a number of key sectors (which isn't a bad idea, atleast they are addressing the problem in some form), but yes it is merely a figurehead position b/c most water regulation and control is handled by local municipalities.
posted by mhaw at 12:42 PM on August 27, 2002

Meanwhile, parts of Minnesota are on track for having their wettest summer in history.
posted by gimonca at 1:07 PM on August 27, 2002

For the life of me, I cannot figure out where the term "czar" was first used to describe an American bureaucrat

Several sources identify William Bennett as the first drug czar, appointed by the first Pres. Bush in 1988. However, your mileage may vary.
posted by donnagirl at 1:19 PM on August 27, 2002

I'm waiting for the Czar's Czar -- then we can complain what a big Gabor the story is. (The last half of the sentence needs to be read aloud for proper elision.)
posted by redshoes3 at 3:49 PM on August 27, 2002

Garry Trudeau dubbed Willam Simon the Energy Czar back in 1974.
posted by hysdavid at 3:56 PM on August 27, 2002

Actually, I have this sense that the term -- more informally -- dated from the FDR wartime alphabet soup agencies, e.g. "price control czars", and in those days referred to groups of people rather than a single person. I can't corroborate this, though. Ah: Andrew Johnson may have coined its modern sense. As a term it is certainly influenced through its wholesale adoption by headlinese. (I don't think Garry was "dubbing" Simon as much as using a term that had become popular.) Another theory dates it to the Baseball Commissioner Judge Landis1, confirmed at least as it made it into his employees' reminiscences -- or, wait, maybe the first Czar of Baseball was Ban Johnson at the turn of the century. In any case, the usage is by no means novel; and Simon may well have been the first one-man federal czar.

1 A really good column both on the history of the word and what it means to be a czar -- in this case, Tom Ridge. Answer: not much.
posted by dhartung at 5:13 PM on August 27, 2002

I live in Richmond Virginia, and wouldn't you know it... it's now raining. It's about time too... first decent rain in weeks.

Guess we can cancel that whole czar thing now. nevermind.
posted by sreilly at 7:52 PM on August 27, 2002

What central part of the state, Dreama?

Over in Rockingham, Albemarle and Augusta counties. We were down at Monticello and Montpelier on a 102 degree day (because we're stupid) and the employees were frantically telling people to watch their cigarette butts because everything was bone dry. And where we were staying (in Rockingham county) some of the places had the propane tanks taken off of their grills, lest errant fire make it to the straw-like grass, but the sprinklers were at full tilt on the golf course.
posted by Dreama at 12:07 AM on August 28, 2002

Ah, in most places they would have been skewered. In some areas, golf courses are allowed to water at night, in others not at all.

Fuck the golf courses (excuse the language) we're in the middle of a horrendous drought. Places are hauling in water, making businesses use porta potties. Restricted residents to 35 gallons of water per person per day (including all cooking, cleaning of home and person.)

Yeah, 102 degree day, keep yourself inside. Especially when the humidity is high. We've had days where the heat index topped 120.

If I see one more smoker (and I am one) toss a cigarette out a car window, I'm going to start smacking people around, though.
posted by SuzySmith at 1:19 AM on August 28, 2002

As a Virginian, I appreciate this silliness. However, I also remember out last governor, who had a little problem with things like fiscal reality, particularly when it came to estimating the cost of building little things like major highways. That whole fiasco makes me understand why Warner might be getting a little carried away in the other direction.
posted by Phaedrus at 10:22 AM on August 28, 2002

Paving Our Way to Water Shortages: How Sprawl Aggravates Drought
"Assuming regional average soil types and accounting for regional rainfall patterns, we calculated the amount of rainwater that runs off the land instead of filtering through and recharging vital groundwater resources. Comparing the level of imperviousness in 1997 to 1982, we found that the potential amount of water lost to infiltration annually ranged from 6.2 billion to 14.4 billion gallons in Dallas to 56.9 billion to 132.8 billion gallons in Atlanta. Atlanta's 'losses' in 1997 amounted to enough water to supply the average daily household needs of 1.5 million to 3.6 million people per year."
posted by Dean King at 1:29 PM on August 28, 2002

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