Music

Notes on Ezra Klein's Van Halen Principle of Government

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Big Bad Bill is Sweet William now. |||

Washington Post Wonkblogger Ezra Klein has a post up titled "How Van Halen explains Obamacare, salmon regulation and scientific grants," and even though the Pasadena crotch-rockers do no such thing, I'm willing to forgive a little headline hyperbole in the service of classing up the sludge of politics with a little Diamond Dave.

Klein's parable has to do with the band's famous rider demanding that there be no brown M&Ms in the dressing room. Turns out—if you believe the unreliable but always entertaining narrator David Lee Roth—this was not the ultimate symbol of '70s rock star entitlement that it was played up to be, but rather an ingenius way for the band to tell whether the venue was paying attention to the most granular of details; a crucial consideration given VH's expensive and complicated lighting and production equipment. "If I came backstage and I saw brown M&M's on the catering table," Roth recently recounted, "it guaranteed the promoter had not read the contract rider, and we had to do a serious line check."

Diver Down. |||

There are any number of policy analogies you can take away from this anecdote. For me it calls to mind the simplifying stunt by another Pasadenan attempting to cut through the fog of bureaucracy: Richard Feynman dipping an O-ring into a glass of ice water in front of Congress after the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up. Klein sees the brown M&Ms myth first as a cautionary tale about media and its consumers: "Tales of someone doing something unbelievably stupid or selfish or irrational are often just stories you don't yet understand."

So President Barack Obama's favorite red-tape gag about overlapping salmon bureaucracies masks a regulatory imperative that is understandably complex, and perennial conservative/libertarian mockery of surfacely bizarro-sounding research grants gratuitously guts some important academic work for a statistically insignificant payoff. So far, so plausible, this "Van Halen Principle."

But Klein then uses the VHP to give Washington what I think is a bit too much benefit of the doubt:

It would be nice if the government's mistakes were typically a product of stupidity, venality or bureaucracy. Then we would need only to remove the idiots, fire the villains and cut the red tape. More often, the outrageous stories we hear are cases of decent people trying to solve tough problems under difficult constraints that we simply haven't taken the time to understand.

You know you're semi-good looking. ||| Wikipedia
Wikipedia

I share Klein's weariness at even unjustifiable Mickey-Mouse outrage stories. When invited to comment on the latest $16 muffin scandal I will almost always say things like:

The nation's current and future deficit is driven overwhelmingly by health care, military and retirement spending, each of which involve ever-increasing promises that have proved politically career-threatening to scale back.

That's why politicians prefer instead to talk about $16 muffins and $600 toilet seats—it's the least expensive way to simulate fiscal responsibility. The boy who cries muffin while signing onto every new major entitlement and military adventure is not in any position to deliver lectures about tax-dollar stewardship. And never forget that the spending frenzy is distinctly bipartisan

But the outrageous stories that my ears register rarely involve "decent people trying to solve tough problems," but rather politicians and bureaucrats (however decent they may otherwise be) responding to perverse incentives by extending expensive policies that inflict tangible damage on comparatively powerless individuals. Which tough problem are we even pretending to solve anymore with the Drug War? What is one "decent" thing you can say about domestic sugar subsidies, or farm subsidies overall? Even laws that spring from more observably defensible motives often end up unfairly burdening the little guy while giving a pass to the very mega-corporation that spurred the reform. Government does many things it shouldn't, which makes it more difficult to do the things it should.

So yes, let's use the Van Halen Principle to, as Ezra Klein says (and often does in practice), "work harder to understand why" government "decided to remove the brown M&M's in the first place." But let's also be open to discovering that few if any federal employees are as rad as David Lee Roth.

Reason's disturbingly large Van Halen archive here, including "When Is Quoting Van Halen a Crime?" Also: Sammy Hagar digs Ayn Rand

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  1. “If I came backstage and I saw brown M&M’s on the catering table,” Roth recently recounted, “it guaranteed the promoter had not read the contract rider, and we had to do a serious line check.”

    Nice.

    1. The presence of M&M’s at all meant they read the rider. The presence of brown M&M’s meant they didn’t feel like picking through them to extract the brown ones. That’s what I would have done, said, “You can pick out your own brown ones.”

  2. The boy who cries muffin

    Now we know the title of Ezra Klein’s memoirs

    1. Fat-lipped Cunt: The Ezra Klein Story

      1. My Finger Smells Like Poopy: The Ezra Klein Story

        1. My Life as the Government’s Bitch – the Ezra Klein Story

          1. Not As Good as Goebbels: The Life and Times of Ezra Klein

      2. Slurp: The Ezra Klein Story

        1. Winner!

    2. Backpfeifengesicht: The Ezra Klein Story

  3. More often, the outrageous stories we hear are cases of decent people trying to solve tough problems under difficult constraints that we simply haven’t taken the time to understand.

    It doesn’t matter, because the information problem is insuperable and will always remain so.

    The real way you get overlapping salmon bureaucracies issuing mutually contradictory rules is you have RANGE of people, of ALL capability levels and honesty levels (idealists and thieves, geniuses and morons) who are working on their little piece of a problem, and they have absolutely no idea what anybody else anywhere is doing.

    Every time I do take the time to understand a “constraint”, I find that the constraint is usually itself a function of government, or of information complexity created by previous government action, or of power complexity created by the presence of different branches of government and overlapping geographic and subject-focus jurisdictions. It’s simply not possible to deal with all those things AND solve the Hayekian information problem of economic regulation at the same time. It can’t be done.

    1. That sentence made me want to vomit. Yeah of course at the heart of the problem is usually a well meaning person trying to do the right thing without understanding the full problem they are dealing with. No shit Ezra. Perhaps that might just be inherent limitation to the ability of government to manage the economy or solve societal problems? Maybe? It is not like we don’t have a hundred years of experiences and examples to look back that all point to this or anything. It is amazing how stupid ideology can make someone.

      1. But, John….their intentions are noble and good!

        Why do you hate our public servants (that’s the one that makes me barf)?

        1. What is amazing is many of the people who believe that shit have actually worked in government. When I was in my 20s I way over estimated the ability of government. That was because I had no real experience in government or being a part of large organizations trying to solve big problems. But then I went out in the world and saw things like the Iraq reconstruction and Katrina first hand. And I realized that it doesn’t matter that everyone means well and is smart and is working hard. There are just ceilings to what central planning and bureaucracy can accomplish.

          These people spend their entire lives in Washington in and around government with the failures and limitations staring them right in the face. Yet, they learn nothing. It really is a form of insanity.

          1. That’s the thing…the premise at the foundation of all they believe is that government and additional regulations are the path to any and all solutions to any and all problems.

            The root of every problem is too few regulations and inadequate levels of taxation and well meaning bureaucrats will lead us all to a new utopia if we just let them!

            In a way his viewpoint reminds me of the old job interview question asking a candidate to name one of their faults and having them answer that they “work too hard sometimes”

          2. I always found it fascinating that Sowell did not begin his transition from liberal to reality during his time learning economics at U Chicago.

            Sowell admits it wasn’t until he actually got a job working in the federal government that he finally realized what kind of stupidity the leftist mentality nurtures.

    2. No, Fluffy, frequently they do have an idea what the other dept. is doing, but they’re under different mandates, so they wind up doing contradictory jobs. They’re just following orders, really & truly.

  4. What is one “decent” thing you can say about domestic sugar subsidies, or farm subsidies overall?

    Dwayne Andreas likes them.

  5. Interesting thing about Feynman’s stunt.

    Feynmann wasn’t the guy who originaged the idea of doing the experiment.

    IIRC, in Feynman’s second auto-biography, he states that a Brigadier General in Air Force was also on the board, and they got to talking. Feynman said that the general brought up a concern about the hardness of the O-Rings at cold temps and put Feynman on the trail of the problem.

    Later, after the furor died down, the General admitted that he had already done the experiment himself, but knew it would be career suicide to blow the whistle, so he had used Feynman as a fire and forget missile to get the job done.

    1. I heard this one, too. Only Feynman could’ve gotten away with that stunt, though, so it’s still a good moment for him.

      1. Oh yes, it was a beautiful moment. His chapter on the investigation is a perfect encapsulation of the man, honest, driven, and both amused and exasperated by the silliness of the people he is dealing with.

        For example, when he asked for the ice water, there was a huge delay. It turns out the staff was trying to organize enough ice water for everyone! The witness was almost done before the water was carted in and Feynman was one of the last ones served!

    2. You don’t attain flag rank without knowing how to play the game.

      1. Yeah, having Feynman do it was brilliant in it simplicity because his reputation as a scientist was unassailable, and his eccentricities were considered part of his genius.

        If General Snuffy does it he just looks like an asshole.

    3. God did he look bad in that picture. Cancer is such a horrible disease.

  6. Richard Feynman and David Lee Roth in one post is almost too much awesomeness to handle.

    1. Just like livin’ in Paradise?

      1. Stop it. Right Now.

        1. Hang ‘im high…

        2. I’m easy, but I guess that’s life. I don’t want to get in big trouble or see EDG goin’ crazy.

    2. They should’ve toured together.

      1. I’d pay a lot to see that. Pity that Feynman died too soon.

      2. Feynman didn’t have much use for popular culture. He was invited to go on the Tonight Show once. A friend of his told him that before he said yes, watch the show. So Feynman watched it and thought it was the most ridiculous and stupid thing he had ever seen in his life and turned down the invitation.

        1. Yes, but he could’ve just played the bongos in the background.

          1. I bet him and Doc would have gotten along well. But everyone gets along well with Doc.

  7. It would be nice if the government’s mistakes were typically a product of stupidity, venality or bureaucracy.

    This isn’t an “if”, it’s reality and there is nothing ‘nice’ about it at all. Much of what passes as legislation is little more than rhetorical monument- and legacy-building. All these outsized egos want to be seen as essential and important men and women, indispendable even. They believe is the solution to everything so when a problem surfaces, they go with what they know.

    To believe that they are committed to bona fide solutions is bullshit, fanciful thinking, and the product of a mind marinated in “state knows best” tautology. Then you remember this is Klein, and it all makes sense.

  8. “””Then we would need only to remove the idiots, fire the villains and cut the red tape.”‘

    The first problems is that they don’t even do this.

    And red tape is based on laws, the same laws that Klein and company want more of.

    1. And the next problem is, even if they did, they still *cannot* solve the knowledge problem.

  9. “work harder to understand why” government “decided to remove the brown M&M’s in the first place.”

    Sure, or as the principle is also called, Chesterton’s Fence.

    Though surely types on the left would so well to try to understand why the long evolutionary force of the market leads to certain unjust or irrational results as well, whether than immediately screaming “market failure.”

    1. I looked up Chesterton’s Fence on wikipedia, and it took me to Chesterton’s bio. In the intro, it has this quote:

      The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.

      Truly a man of vision.

  10. OT but related: a post in a work-related blog I frequent that posited how you do your work is reflected in whether you’re a DLR Van Halen person or a Sammy Hagar Van Halen person.

    No – do not even THINK about Gary Cherone. Epi’s the only Gary Cherone VH fan.

    Anyhoo – can’t find it – but it was hilarious. And made me think through my VH….and I’ll be damned….I own ALL the VH’s with David Lee (in vinyl and CD), and nothing with Sammy Hagar. Well, there ya go.

    1. It’s McCartney or Lennon. This is known.

    2. Episiarch is an absolute Cherone man. He is a monster unlike any the world has ever seen.

    3. Who the fuck is Gary Cherone?

  11. At best, it should say “More often, the outrageous stories we hear are cases of decent people trying to solve tough problems under difficult constraints that they, not “we”, simply haven’t taken the time to understand.”

  12. I’ve always suspected Welch held stake in an area muffin bakery.

    1. “Area muffin bakery” sounds like something out of the Onion. That must be where Area Man gets his muffins.

      1. True story: Here in Brooklyn, where I moved to a year ago, “Area” is chain of stores. Like, “Area Kicks & Cuts,” or “Area Fitness.”

    2. Is ‘muffin bakery’ a euphemism for cat house?

  13. here’s the tl;dr of Klein’s piece: “TOP MEN!”

    Every single new regulation represents a new loss of liberty, and a move towards tyranny. It really doesn’t matter what the regulation in question is. Klein’s child-like trust in TOP MEN merely means that he is a sad boot-licker who needs to fucking grow up.

    1. Grow up is right. I can’t believe anyone who is around government and exposed to it as much as a Washington hack like Klein is could possibly have any faith in it doing anything. It would be one thing if Klein were 12 and lived in the middle of nowhere and had experience or contact with government. But he lives in the middle of government central.

      It is two things. One is he is an emotionally stunted child who apparently can’t grow up and see the world for what it is. And two, he just loves power. The intoxication of power prevents him from admitting the truth.

      1. the Klein types have no choice; belief in govt is an article of faith. Having that faith shakened would cause them to question whether everything they know to be true is, in fact, not true.

        Ezra’s mentality is no different from that of the Arab kid raised in a madrassa. He believes what he believes becuase no other dogma has ever been allowed.

        1. There is definitely some truth to that. Freedom of thought is essential to intelligence. Lack of freedom and dogma make otherwise intelligent people stupid.

        2. Irvine and UCLA aren’t exactly madrassas. I’m not denying the political and philosophical tendencies of his environment, but keep in mind his first start was as a blogger–he had access to libraries with almost anything you could want as a child and then the Internet, where, as far as I can tell, he spends the grand majority of his time.

          Regardless of pressure from peers or otherwise, the one person ultimately responsible for Ezra Klein’s choices is Ezra Klein. In this country, no other dogma being allowed was his choice to make.

    2. Every single new regulation represents a new loss of liberty

      Wrong. The great majority of new regs (which all regulatory changes are) are lateral moves, sometimes with a little gain or loss of liberty attached, and frequently both gain & loss. And unless you’re familiar enough with the subject matter, it can be very hard to distinguish between those that’ll produce gains, losses, and neutral changes.

      It’d be different if the regulatory corpus weren’t so large already. Then you could say most of the time that new regs meant a loss of liberty. But as it is, usually the new reg is just modifying an old reg.

  14. Back when the Affordable Care Act was being drafted, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa proposed an amendment requiring members of Congress and staff to get their health care from an insurance exchange. Grassley expected the amendment to be defeated, exposing Democrats as hypocrites who wouldn’t live under their own health-care regime. Instead, in a moment of apparent political inspiration, Democrats voted for the amendment. They would love to be part of Obamacare!

    Not really, man-boy Klein. Grassley, for whatever other failings he may have, has a history of trying to make sure our philosopher-kings are bound to obey the same laws they impose on the plebians. Grassley sponsored the Congressional Accountability Act in 1995. Grassley proposed the Amendment to subject the Congress to Obamacare, which Reid opposed. However, Congress has a means of escape, as the OPM has final say as to whether or not federal workers can go to the insurance exchanges.

  15. “But Klein then uses the VHP to give Washington what I think is a bit too much benefit of the doubt:”

    Matt, specifically, which doubt is that?

    “The boy who cries muffin…”

    Thank you. If I read nothing else today, this alone made it worthwhile to get out of bed.

    David Lee Roth was not Van Halen. He was, aside from being one of the most annoying human beings to ever live, another instrument that Eddie and Alex employed to work their magic. As usual, Klein misses something essential and what you get from him is a different kind of truth.

    1. I must object to this. Van Hagar sucked, and I liked solo Sammy well enough solo. Van Halen with Diamond Dave did not suck.

      1. but did you like Dave solo? If not, suthenboy’s point is solid. If you did, there must some sort of re-ed camp for that.

        1. No. What I’m saying is that Dave and the rest of the band needed each other.

          1. fair enough…and true.

      2. No objection is required ProL. I didnt say Dave sucked. He was a fantastic instrument and the band will always be DLR Van Halen to me. I just pointed out that the genius came from the Van Halen Bros. Eddie had a great guitar, and in the same way, a great vocalist.

        The band was able to survive without Roth, but what would have happened if Eddie left? Poof. No band.

    2. DLR was Van Halen. Eddie never understood that Van Halen was a party band. They were a joke. But they were a really good joke that no one but them could tell well. In the beginning, they were that rarest of rock and roll bird; a band with a sense of humor. Their first three records were so much fun and so funny. But then Eddie let the fact that he was a supremely gifted musician go to his head and decided to be a “serious band”. And they just became another 80s hair band who could actually play well.

      1. Exactly. They were a fun band. That was their point. And Dave got that.

      2. Reflexively I began to object, but on further reflection you do actually have a good point John.

        I found DLR’s personality to be very annoying, but you are right, he was funny and gave the band an air of whimsey.

        I guess I am personally biased as I have an uncle with the exact same personality as ‘Diamond Dave’. That shit gets old fast when you have to be around it in person.

        1. I would hate to have to spend 20 minutes with Diamond Dave. I can totally understand why they kicked him out of the band. The sad thing is that Sammy Hagar is really funny and really good as a solo act. And Van Halen made him decidedly less fun.

        2. Well, yeah, Dave’s insane. I wouldn’t want to be within a mile of him.

      3. It’s painful listening to the synth-pop that got put on “5150” and “OU812.” It’s like Eddie just completely dropped his balls to make middle school dance fodder.

        “F.U.C.K.” at least had a couple decent rocker tunes on it, but by then the hair-metal wave that Van Hagar rode from 1986-1992 was breathing its last gasps.

        1. I will never understand why a guy who was by many considered the greatest guitarist of his generation would one day decided his band needed more synthesizers.

          One of the reasons why ACDC will always be one of my favorite bands is that they never tried to be something they were not. Their formula may have been simple. But they perfected it and never let themselves get delusions of grandeur. They have always been totally comfortable with who they are. You have to respect that.

          1. Of course. Scottish metal.

            And don’t correct me–all the Youngs and Scott were born in Scotland.

          2. Maybe because “Jump” was so successful (and so great)?

            1. I like it okay, but it’s not as good as their earlier, funnier movies.

              1. +1 wise alien

            2. It was successful. I would hardly call it great. But he made the decision to do that before 1984. It was not like Jump was some one off song that was a hit. It was part of an entire record that tried to do that. And although Jump was a hit, the change pretty much finished them as a band. It took a while but it finished them.

          3. Eddie played piano long before he ever picked up a guitar. His understanding of piano chord voicings is one reason why his rhythm guitar playing was so unique for the time.

            1. I understand that, but it doesn’t mean that the band’s musical output improved once that transition took place.

        2. Yeah, I don’t recall any hot drunk bitches removing all their clothes to shake their asses to OU812 st any parties I attended, but 1984 and Diver Down, that’s a completely different dtory.

          1. Dude….you are killing me. That brings back some memories. Wow.

            In a while I have to take some equipment to a shop full of wrench monkeys but I am going to be remembering all day Doreen Godchaux in a bikini dancing to Running with the Devil by firelight.

            God, she was so fucking hot.

      4. Here, just for fun.

        All of y’all that are at work, play this in a hidden window and crank the volume up to 11.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbEW9Zv7f6U

      5. Eddie never understood that Van Halen was a party band.

        Nope. Fair Warning is an incredible album, full of awesomely dark and cynical songs. The two “party band” albums that followed it are total crap, by comparison.

        Van Halen albums break down in twos:

        VH I & II: The Beach Boys Meet Black Sabbath. Classics, but lightweight in places.

        Women And Children First & Fair Warning: Wherein the boys learn the joys and dangers of life on the road. My favorite VH albums.

        Diver Down & 1984: Frat rock bullshit.

        5150 & OU812: Frat rock bullshit, now with more keyboards!

        F.U.C.K. & Balance: Decent hard rock albums, if not terribly inspiring. Hagar was clearly in charge creatively by this point.

        Okay, maybe the “pairings” thing doesn’t work for the most recent two albums after these, but WTF.

        1. There’s one thing that no one has commented on yet, so allow me. When they first arrived on the scene, they had a totally unique sonic. Nobody sounded like them – even Alex’s drum sound was different. (Admittedly, M Anthony’s bass wasn’t really different, but no one would have noticed anyway).

  16. Klein’s parable has to do with the band’s famous rider demanding that there be no brown M&Ms; in the dressing room.

    Ozzie had the exact opposite request.

    Del Preston: “So there I am, in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, at about 3 o’clock in the morning, looking for one thousand brown M&Ms; to fill a brandy glass, or Ozzy wouldn’t go on stage that night. So, Jeff Beck pops his head ’round the door, and mentions there’s a little sweets shop on the edge of town. So – we go. And – it’s closed. So there’s me, and Keith Moon, and David Crosby, breaking into that little sweets shop, eh. Well, instead of a guard dog, they’ve got this bloody great big Bengal tiger. I managed to take out the tiger with a can of mace, but the shopowner and his son… that’s a different story altogether. I had to beat them to death with their own shoes. Nasty business, really. But, sure enough, I got the M&Ms;, and Ozzy went on stage and did a great show.”

  17. They picked the wrong 80’s hair band.

    Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” explains it a lot better than any stupid M&M thing.

  18. When Ezra watched Dr Strangelove for the first time the other day he not only broke down in hives, but found the ‘if you see something, say something’ flyer the 5’2″ obese affirmitive action hire cop had handed to him on the street in his jean jacket pocket and called in to report anti-government activity.

  19. The Van Halen Principle is that I’m teacher’s ice cream man.

  20. Klein can have his Van Halen Principle. I’ll stick with Occam’s Razor: If it sounds like an indefensible and/or retarded use of tax dollars, it probably is.

  21. More often, the outrageous stories we hear are cases of decent people trying to solve tough problems under difficult constraints that we simply haven’t taken the time to understand

    right.

    like, “barrel shrouds”

    “we have top men! experts! you are unable to fully appreciate the reasons because…look over there! fracking! thats bad too! just trust us!… we’ll explain later…””

  22. In otherwords, trust the government, I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for it, I just don’t feel like finding out what it is yet.

    Which is pretty much the entire journalistic establishment’s attitude towards anything and everything the government does.

    The Hakkens being a case in point. SURELY the government had a better reason to take these people’s children away than just their marijuana smoking. We don’t know what it is, and we’re not going to bother to investigate. Just trust them. Of course they had a good reason.

    I’m beginning to wonder what the point of being a journalist is if you’re not going to actually question authority or investigate a anything the government says.

  23. If Ezra Klein sees some examples of apparently stupid government (but actually not stupid) spending that he thinks conservatives are stupidly objecting to, he can do his fucking job and find out what the rational explanation for it is.

    Instead of just, you know saying “Trust the government! I’m sure there’s a good reason for that apparently retarded spending/program/regulation. I’m too lazy to find out what it is, so I’m just going to assume there is one, and you should too!”

    1. This, times 100.

      Look, I’m sure there are some well-meaning people in government, who are earnestly trying to fix what they regard as serious social problems. But:

      (a) There are also a lot of venal crapweasels; and,

      (b) No gold stars for effort or good intentions.

      I’m willing to allow that someone, somewhere, thought there was a good reason to spend millions of dollars studying duck genitals. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether that’s a defensible use of money expropriated from Joe Q. Taxpayer at gunpoint.

      Similarly, I’m prepared to allow that there’s a not-completely-insane reason why there are three different federal bureaucracies issuing contradictory regulations pertaining to salmon. Again: not the issue. The issue is that, given the federal government’s demonstrated incompetence in this area, why we continue to spend money on those bureaucracies.

  24. If the principle that Klein was really trying to establish was “the truth is much more nuanced and less exciting than the sensationalists would have you believe” then really, Klein’s VHP is nothing more than a poor, hyperbolic choice. Many better analogies exist out there.

    You’re absolutely correct that many policy analogies fit the VH parable better than what Klein is attempting to associate. What comes to my mind more immediately is Nancy Pelosi’s famous “We have to pass the bill so we can find out what’s in it” line about Obamacare. If VH’s contract rider was indeed a test for diligence and detail on the part of a promotor (so VH management could address concert infrastructure needs before a lighting system blew up), then is Obamacare a test to see if government could handle 1/6th of GDP? Because plenty of people could tell you there there have been many “tests” already passed that provided ample evidence that government can’t. (Definition of insanity anyone?)

    When Diamond Dave went solo, he recorded another tune, “Coconut Grove.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoanut_Grove_fire) Not not actually a reference to the 2nd worst nightclub fire in US history but if Obamacare becomes a truly great failure, can we expect another article from Klein bemoaning the “Cocoanut Grove” principle?

    Coming from a 44-cheerleader like Klein, I would have assumed that the VHP was actually about how “Everybody Wants Some (I want some too)!”

  25. Ezra Klein & Matt Welch are both right. Partly the gen’l public (rationally ignorant) and partly interests (rationally knowledgeable) put perfectly well-meaning bureaucrats into situations that range from uncomfortable to impossible. Joe Hevey (a Yahoogroup participant who sort-of inherited particip’n and yet manages to pass along useful info sometimes) this morning sent a story from AP about how FDA has dithered for decades without coming to a decision Congress mandated in 1972 in declaring triclosan (that ubiquitous antimicrobial in consumer products) safe & effective or not. Whoever makes the final decision will be wrong. Private sector & quasi-gov’tal studies have been done for many years. It’s just a matter of how seriously to take the adverse findings among them. So in the meantime bureaucrats feign ignorance. It’s a hot potato. However, as long as they don’t come to a decision, the product stays on the market and those opposed to it have something to complain about while they themselves use other products (or hypocritically use triclosan).

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