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January 12, 2004 7:36 PM   Subscribe

The White House wants to decide what, and when, the public would be told about an outbreak of mad cow disease, an anthrax release, a nuclear plant accident or any other crisis. Instead of the federal agencies responsible for public health, safety and the environment, the bad news would be in the hands of this guy, whose Harvard Center for Risk Analysis famously "proved" that talking on cell phones while driving is no safety concern, and that there was "very little risk that American cattle will contract mad cow disease or that the disease would ever pose a public health problem for people."
posted by soyjoy (38 comments total)
posted by bshort at 7:47 PM on January 12, 2004

One more bolt in the machine that's trying to suck up all the power in Washington to one spot. Bend over America, Dubya wants s'more!
posted by tomorama at 7:52 PM on January 12, 2004

I feel safer already - in strangely weighted statistical terms, that is.
posted by troutfishing at 8:01 PM on January 12, 2004

appalling-- "Pay no attention to those people dying" "That green cloud that eats your skin is of no concern" "The air is safe near the WTC" (oops--that last one really happened)
posted by amberglow at 8:01 PM on January 12, 2004

I live for the day when these power-hungry scumbags are tried in an (honest) court of law (remember those?), convicted of high treason and crimes against the Constitution, and swing from the gallows as a reminder to those who would try to subvert and undermine the Constitution that they swore to protect.
posted by keswick at 8:19 PM on January 12, 2004

keswick: now there's an idea!
posted by tiamat at 8:33 PM on January 12, 2004

Come on, now - if the Constitution were in any danger, these guys would tell you about it right away.
posted by soyjoy at 8:35 PM on January 12, 2004

soyjoy, that ZINGS!
posted by oog at 8:59 PM on January 12, 2004

and swing from the gallows

and wet their pants before they reach the end of the rope.
posted by quonsar at 9:01 PM on January 12, 2004

He who is jealous of power and seeks to gather it all unto himself shall always be a tyrant and a destroyer, without mercy or caution or righteousness.
posted by rushmc at 9:04 PM on January 12, 2004

And the Gods shall strike him down, nor shall he ever see it coming.
posted by troutfishing at 9:36 PM on January 12, 2004

"Under this proposal, the carefully crafted process used by the government to notify the public of an imminent danger is going to first have to be signed off by someone weighing the political hazards."

Absolutely chilling. The politicizing of health and safety information is already a huge problem. And what the hell happened to the first amendment?
posted by namespan at 9:52 PM on January 12, 2004

Some questions:

- Will DHS have to got OMB approval to raise the terror alert level from yellow to orange?

- Will the Army have to get OMB approval before saying, "We found weapons of mass -- oh, that's my gym sock, nevermind," for the umpteenth time?

- Is this really a not-so-subtle reminder to the agencies that they serve the President, not the public?
posted by Ptrin at 9:59 PM on January 12, 2004

None of this will (seem to) matter, once the FDA OMB allows Pfizer to fastrack their newest product - Soma ™ and get it on store shelves.
Don't be a terrorist - take your dose now!
Remember, at $50/day it's a bargain - and of course, it's mandatory.
posted by bashos_frog at 10:01 PM on January 12, 2004

I'd better get a map before this guy decides we really don't need to know where Canada is.
posted by ilsa at 10:09 PM on January 12, 2004

follow the north star, ilsa, just follow the north star.
posted by quonsar at 12:27 AM on January 13, 2004

I friggin' give up. I'm going to start my 5-year plan to secede from society and become a bitter, vegetarian hermit.
posted by FormlessOne at 9:17 AM on January 13, 2004

bashos_frog: Too late, MedPointe Pharmaceuticals uses Soma® as their brand name for a muscle relaxant already.

Tomorrow has made a phone call to today.
posted by cmonkey at 9:17 AM on January 13, 2004

I generally try to stay out of the political ramblings here, and I'm as cynical as anyone, but I am just amazed at the constant barrage of outrages coming out of the White House, and the lack of response from the people.

I used to joke that all people here cared about was their SUVs and American Idol, but I'm becoming convinced that this is in fact the case.

It is a sad time to be an American.
posted by eas98 at 9:18 AM on January 13, 2004

Someone, anyone please tell me what possible good might come out of something like this. It seems that we usually have a good assortment of right/left wing denizens on these posts. I do like to start fights..er discussions by taking the left view. And I mean it. But that being said, I do also like to see both sides of the issue, whether I act like it or not.

That being said, conservatives, where is the white house taking us? Seriously? This is just another event, or possible event in the list of many.

Without throwing mud or names or fighting, can someone please tell me, an obviously uneducated, politically left leaning everday joe, where we are going and why I should not be afraid for my kids future?
posted by damnitkage at 9:26 AM on January 13, 2004

I'd better get a map before this guy decides we really don't need to know where Canada is.

Only terrorists need maps!
posted by uosuaq at 9:29 AM on January 13, 2004

[this is doubleplusgood]
posted by mkultra at 9:35 AM on January 13, 2004

so who showed that there's a higher-than-little risk that an American cow would contract mad cow disease?
posted by shoos at 9:36 AM on January 13, 2004

How come the first time we've heard about this is after the public comment period? Following this story, I'm sure there are people who want their comments heard.
posted by humbe at 10:05 AM on January 13, 2004

shoos, I think it was the American cow that contracted mad cow that showed that there's a higher-than-little risk of that happening. In fact, I'd say the risk of mad cow disease in an American cow now looks like around 100%.
posted by soyjoy at 10:18 AM on January 13, 2004

So, you know something about the incubation period of mad cow and age of the "American" mad cow?
posted by shoos at 10:37 AM on January 13, 2004


I am laughing so hard I am crying.

Despite the fact that this situation is such that I should be crying so hard I am laughing.
posted by ilsa at 10:48 AM on January 13, 2004

shoos - if you have some information that it was in fact NOT an American cow, I urge you to immediately alert the world's journalists and scientists.
posted by soyjoy at 10:56 AM on January 13, 2004

This is the best idea yet out of the White House.

Only Lord Voldemort can be trusted with matters of such importance.

All hail the Dark Lord!

I, for one, welcome our new Dark Lord. It's Guantanamo I don't like. Hear that guys? Do I still exist? Can I prove it? Hello! Hello! Is there anybody out there?
posted by nofundy at 11:13 AM on January 13, 2004


the cow was infected in Canada. became an "American" by crossing the border.

Scientists are so intimidating, aren't they.
posted by shoos at 11:20 AM on January 13, 2004

became an "American" by crossing the border

Exactly. Became "American," and became a threat to "Americans" by entering the "American" food chain and being eaten by "American" consumers - the exact thing the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis said there was "very little risk" of.

Scientists are so intimidating, aren't they.

Yeah, maybe that's because they have more info than we're being provided by the cattle-industry operatives now blithely reassuring us about the ongoing risks.
posted by soyjoy at 11:45 AM on January 13, 2004


This is a bigger issue than the cattle industry will admit.

I am related to a cattleman and spent a very long discussion with a group of them the day after christmas.

They are all scared shitless and wish they'd sold all their cattle a month or so before.

They all believe that this will cause more testing (which it should) which will VERY LIKELY find more cases. Of course, unless Bush Corp. (see above) prevents the news from being released.

They all are basically praying that the cattle industry can convince the 24 or so nations that boycotted us to start buying again so they can offload their stock.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:01 PM on January 13, 2004

Ynoxas - sure, CJD is pretty damn bad. But the statement "an American cow contracted mad cow" just somehow seemed a little over the top to me.

And, yes, Bush corp is terrible. But who did more to give that cow its disease, Bush corp or some person or entity in Canada?
posted by shoos at 12:25 PM on January 13, 2004

Not to derail this further, but there is a distinction between "American cattle" and "one American cow". There really is a very low risk of mad cow occurring in North America to an extent where it seriously threatens the food supply, and I think that's what HCRA was saying. We've had two confirmed cases, and of the almost 40,000 high-risk cows slaughtered to test for mad cow, not one further case has been found. That's pretty good odds.

Not that we should relax our standards or anything stupid like that... yes testing should be increased because we know it's possible for it to happen here. But in both cases they were older cows, born before we learned herbivorous cows don't take too well to cannibalism (who knew?).

As for the whole OMB thing - words fail me. Every day, I feel a little more pity for my American neighbours, and am a little more thankful to live in the great white north.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:00 PM on January 13, 2004

Interesting. This OMBWatch Memo on what they think is wrong with OMB proposals shows, among the other statemenets, that -information deemed to be significat- must undergo some kind of very tight scientific examination. Why ? Among the qualifiers that would made any kind of information "significant" there's ONE very interesting :

information that COULD have a clear and substantial impact on public policies or important private sector decisions with a POSSIBLE impact of more then $100 Million a year

A ha ! Accountants are messing with scientific world again ! How does exactly one evaluate how much could a piece of information affect something ? I tell you, it's not an objective process, it's a bunch of ecomic accounting "theories" much like RIAA ones of losing trillions because of evil pirates ; obviously they can't possibily know who among the customers who got a pirate copy would have bought it, they start from an assumption that every copied piece would have been otherwise bought.

So one could just "assume" a piece of info is worth more then $100M or not worth and make it "important" or "not important"; but nobody did know that the info about terrorist attacking WTC was good valuable info -before- the attack actually happened, neither could anybody possibly know if an information is going to affect something before it does affect it in a very clear and devastatingly obvious way, under your own nose.

Also, who better then a "industry representative" could "quantify" the potential impact of an information on a industry ? Conflict of interest here is adamant.
posted by elpapacito at 7:27 PM on January 13, 2004

You only need to know what we tell you. You will follow all orders and directives that you are given. You will line up to show your papers. Deviance from the norm should be reported to the authorities. Refill your prozac and take it as directed. You will be told when you are allowed to think. The Constitution is meaningless. Follow the Great Leader and all will be well.

You are free to do as we command you.
posted by dejah420 at 11:58 AM on January 14, 2004

About that Harvard Center for Risk Analysis study...

Bush officials overstated findings of risk study
    Veneman said the study "clearly shows" that existing precautions, including a ban on recycling cow meat into animal feed, "have helped keep BSE (mad cow) from entering the United States." The study made no such conclusion, [lead author George] Gray told The Oregonian. Rather, it assumed that U.S. cattle -- up to 500 head in one scenario -- already had become infected.
So... they were off by 499 cows? Or...
posted by soyjoy at 8:49 AM on January 27, 2004

Harvard, Expert Panel at Odds Over US Mad Cow Risk

OK, OK, I'm done.
posted by soyjoy at 7:21 PM on February 5, 2004

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