I have just gotten my sixth or seventh email about Cass Sunstein who is an animal rights lunatic.
Sunstein is also a very accomplished legal scholar and academic but, in my opinion, those people are a dime a dozen in this country, and so let me simply toss Sunstein into the basket of Animal Right lunatic .
See? He fits perfectly.
So what are all these Cass Sunstein emails about?
Simple: I am supposed to be hyperventilating because Barack Obama has put Cass Sunstein in charge of all regulation in the Federal Government!! An animals rights lunatic is going to run ALL of the U.S. Government!
Really? There is such a job? One guy runs all of the U.S. Government?
News to me, but I have only been 27 years getting legislation through Congress. What the hell do I know? Not much -- ask anyone!
So I looked up Sunstein and, more importantly, his job. And you can too.
Sunstein will head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration.
What does that office do?
Not nearly as much as you think.
First this is an office that was established in the 1980 Paperwork Reduction Act.
In short, it's an office about bureacracy. It's not an office that initiates anything. Congress and Federal agencies still do that.
I though the last quarter century of my life had been a joke and dream. OK, it has been a joke, but at least it was not a dream. Two houses of Congress, the President, and the Federal Agencies are still making laws -- with approval of the courts. It is not yet being done by the Wizard of Oz behind a magic curtain. Thank goodness!
So what does the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs do? Mostly it serves as an arbitration unit between federal agencies in conflict with each other, and it serves as an anlysis shop where draft regulations are looked over and rethought and quantified.
Federal agencies often produce rules and regulations which are overly elaborate and ornate, and which require companies and agencies to do a lot of work for perhaps not too much benefit.
This office tries to discourage that. In short, it is the shop where cost-benefit analysis is done.
Is Cass Sunstein the man for that job?
Probably. You see, while he absolutely thinks there is a place for regulation, he is also a bit of a cynic. He wants to see the cost-benefit analysis. He wants to see the numbers.
Though a liberal, he has raised questions about the constitutionality of workplace safety laws and the Clean Air Act, and he thinks that the lives of younger people might be worth more than the elderly since we are talking about relative years of life (and productivity) lost.
In short, Sunstein is a bean-counter's bean counter.
This is a guy who is willing to ask tough questions, and whether you like those questions or not, tough questions are the job over at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
So Sunstein is probably a good fit.
But will Sunstein be initiating policy or regulations?
No and nope.
Sunstein's job is simply to be a skeptical bureaucrat and point out where unintentional losses and gains might be occuring due to government action.
Sunstein's bloodless economic framework scares the hell out of the left.
Environmental activists in particular are saying his cost-benefit analysis is the kind of crazy-tune stuff George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan might salute.
Business interests, on the other hand, have generally saluted his nomination, hoping he might be a backstop to aggressive regulation to improve workplace safety and oversight in the food and drug arena.
Ok, fair enough, but what about the animal rights stuff? Won't Sunstein be the guy in charge of: 1) returning all the chickens back to the wild, or; 2) banning beef, or; 3) banning dog breeding, or; 4) banning hunting?
No. Absolutely not. Are your crazy? Not remotely his job.
But ... but ... but ... I got this email you sputter.
Yes you did, but in this day and age you REALLY DO need to slow down and rope your own cattle when it comes to information.
This email was generated by a "chain pull" from the folks over at the "Center for Consumer Freedom."
First, a few words about the Center for Consumer Freedom.
To start with, every single word in its name is a lie.
It is not a "Center" at all -- it is little more than the account of a public relations firm.
The Center for Consumer Freedom was started by ad man Richard Berman "to unite the restaurant and hospitality industries in a campaign to defend their consumers and marketing programs against attacks from anti-smoking, anti-drinking, anti-meat, etc. activists ..."
In short, for those of you who have read Christopher Buckley's delightful book, Thank You for Smoking, this is the "MOD Squad" come to life -- Merchants of Death lobbyists in Washington and their paid apologists and liars for hire.
And, to put things in perspective, let me give you some numbers: Smoking kills about 400,000 Americans a year, booze kills another 100,000 Americans a year, and God Himself cannot tell you what poor FDA regulation and diet choices are doing in terms of mortality and illness.
Berman and the Center for Consumer Freedom will not tell you who their donors are. This is really ironic since www.ActivistCash.com, a web site run by Berman and the Center for Consumer Freeedom, is all about "exposing" funding from the other side.
So who funds the Center for Consumer Freedom? Who knows? But I suspect you can guess. Do you really need a weather man to tell you which way the wind blows? I bet not!
The bottom line is that the Center for Consumer Freedom operates as little more than an independent nonprofit public relations firm for for-profit companies whose products are not healthy and predictably kill hundreds of thousands of people a year.
And there is nothing wrong with that. We have a lot of transvestite people in this country, so why not a few transvestite nonprofit organization as well? And it's not like it's the only one is it? No!
What makes the Center for Consumer Freedom unique, however, is that in their war with PETA (and to a lesser extent the Humane Society of the U.S.) they are aligned against an entity that really is as stupid, evil, wrong and an even bigger fraud than the Center for Consumer Freedom is.
Which is saying something!
Nor is everything the Center for Consumer Freedom saying wrong -- much of it is correct, if not entirely complete.
But if you are smart, you should never take what others are saying as dicta. Especially stuff that comes to you via unsolicited email!
Embrace the Cass Sunstein model, and be skeptical. Do the research and look up independent sources.
Use the Google.
And if you use the Google on Cass Sunstein, as I did, you relax quite a lot and you think the Obama Administration put the right guy in the right job for this one.
Does that mean Cass Sunstein is not an animal rights lunatic? No. He is certainly that.
But so what? There are a lot of animal rights lunatics in this country, and they have always been in government.
But one man does not make law or regulation in this country, and over at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, no one is making law and regulation. They are only counting beans, reducing paper work, asking whether every rule and regulation is really needed, and trying to get warring federal agencies to fight less. And I think Sustein might be the right man for that job.
So why did the Center for Consumer Freedom do a chain pull on this guy? Why the Chinese Fire Drill?
Simple: the Center for Consumer Freedom needed to do something to show its corporate masters and donors that they were on top of things as far as the Obama transition was concerned. The fact that Cass Sunstein is not a real problem is a never mind as far as they are concerned. I mean, this guy is going to be the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama Administration!!!!!! Surely that will panic the troops! And the fact that the troops will panic will impress the corporate masters and result in more money flowing into the Center for Consumer Freedom.
Which is how it works in these astrotruf organizations.
You see, Washington, D.C. astroturf organizations are generally started by public relations firms like Berman's and they are almost always maintained by contrived crisis.
And it's a good business.
The corporate folks who pay their bills are actually in the advertising departments of their respective industries, and most could not differentiate a real political problem from a contrived one if they had an Audubon Field Guide in their hand.
And so PR-firm created astroturf organizations like the Center for Consumer Freedom are able to drum up imaginary problems and then fix them for their corporate clients. It's a lot like Filipino Psychic Surgery in which you "cure" patients of cancers they never really had.
Welcome to Washington. Welcome to my world.
Will things ever change? Oh sure. Right after the Chicago Cubs win the World series, which will happen right after Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize. This way to the Egress!