Where Everybody's Dosed The Same

« April 2005 »

The good news is, it's not as bad as it sounds. The bad news is, that doesn't actually help. It's still DUMB.

You may have heard, especially if you follow the left-leaning media, that the government is giving a few hundred dollars to poor families to spray their kids with pesticides and film the results. And I'm here to reassure you that, as evil as our government is, they're not actually doing that. Take a deep breath. Sit down. The reality isn't that alarming.

What's actually happening is this. The government WANTS to pay poor families who are ALREADY spraying kids with pesticides to keep doing it for a couple years and film the results. And they get a T-shirt, too. There. Don't you feel better? I know I do.

This whole mess came to light Wednesday, during the confirmation hearings of acting EPA chief Stephen Johnson. Senator Barbara Boxer, current trustee of the Democratic Party's last remaning set of balls, confronted Johnson on the pesticide research, and, when he refused to cancel it outright, pledged to do everything in her power to kill his chances of removing the "acting" from his title.

Instead of cancelling the program, it's been "suspended", while outside scientists and ethicists check to see if it's a good idea. As someone with at least more than a layman's background in science, and a pretty firm grasp of ethics, let's take a look at the details and see how the whole thing sounds.

The study is called the Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study. It sounds a bit ominous at first, until you look at it by its handy acronym, CHEERS! Well, heck, nothing called CHEERS could possibly be a bad idea! It sounds so happy, like a clown! Children love clowns! Here's a rule of thumb. If the government has come up with a snappy name for it, it's inevitably going to be bad for you. When the government said "Let's send a man to the moon!", they didn't have to come up with a clever abbreviation for the astronauts. Sending a man to the moon is cool all by itself. So they just called it what it was, the letters worked out to NASA, and everyone went home happy. CHEERS, on the other hand, is acronymically suspicious.*

The study is limited to residents of Duval County, FL. According to the EPA, this is because, to boil down their obtuse language, the residents of Duval County apparently have to spray every square inch of every surface in the entire county with pesticides, twice a day, just to keep the whole region from being overrun by giant cockroaches. I'm sure the fact that Duval County is in the northeast, swampland, Deliverance part of Florida, and just happens to have a per capita income half that of the national average, has nothing to do with it. They just hate bugs more than the rest of us.

The EPA tells families there is no risk for participating in the study. This is technically true, because the study asks them to keep doing the harmful things they've been doing. The study itself isn't harmful, just the behavior being studied. This is the kind of distinction I'm sure parents of infants expect the government to make when they ask "Is it safe?"

But enough dwelling on the negatives. We really should turn our attention to the FABULOUS PRIZE PACKAGE offered to potential participants. First and formost is the cash sum of NINE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY DOLLARS! Sure, that doesn't seem like a lot of money to keep taping roach motels to your baby's ass, but remember what I said before about per capita income. At about twenty grand a year per person, that near-grand starts looking better. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!

If you do everything they say, and complete the study, at the end of two years, you get to keep the camcorder you've been using to film your baby's reactions to pesticides! Come on! A two-year old used piece of government issue consumer electronics? Can't go wrong there!

And that's not counting the extras, like a T-shirt, complete with CHEERS logo and happy baby! A baby bib! A calendar! A study newsletter! And best of all, a framed Certificate of Appreciation from the Environmental Protection Agency. Of course, framed certificates of appreciation don't come cheap, even in the quantities the government buys them in. Luckily, the EPA found a completely uninterested third party willing to chip in $2 million toward the cost of the study - the fine philanthropists of the, um... American Chemistry Council. OK, technically, they're lobbyists for the people who make pesticides, but if it weren't for their involvement, pesticide babies might go unbibbed, leading to unsightly Deep Woods Off stains on their jumpers.

Aren't you relieved, now? Sure, the government is evil, but at least, with the exception of Tom DeLay, it's still doing up to 78% of it's moustache-twirling and cackling behind closed doors, where you won't even hear about it if you stay home and watch TV news.

*"Acronymically Suspicious", by the way, is one of the early, rejected slogans for Lucky Charms.