Where's the voice of reason?
Dave Farber's IP list pointed to what I thought would be an amusing read, especially given recent reminders of the Reagan Administration's efforts to label ketchup as a vegetable in school cafeterias. It was "USDA: Frozen Fries Are 'Fresh' Veggies" [re-paragraphed - Ed]
Okay, there's a couple of things here that I want to ignore. One is the question of why the Feds should have regulations protecting certain producers from their customers going out of business without paying for the product they've purchased. Another is the question of what having "heart-clogging trans-fat" has to do with whether an item meets the definition or not (I take it as an argument that French fries are not healthy, to which I can only say, "Doh!" and ask what that has to do with it). And finally, I want to ignore the fact that 100 pages of debate about this change cannot be compared to the one paragraph summary, "French fries are not fresh vegetables." (I will also ignore the fact that it's more of a sentence than a paragraph.)
Reading between the lines — but only slightly — and recognizing that this is only a news account and may not be entirely accurate, there's a common sense explanation for what's going on here that the article doesn't bother to mention. PACA seems to have been intended to cover cases of non-payment by out-of-business buyers to food producers when the items produced are perishable, i.e. when recovery of the produce would be woefully inadquate compensation for the lack of payment. The judge's allusion to the ambiguity of the term "fresh vegetables" seems like a hint that this is a term narrlowly defined in the Act and specifically drawn up to identify those food items Congress wanted to protect in this way and to exclude those it didn't. The argument seems to be about whether French fries fall under the term as defined in the Act. It's not really about whether French fries are actually fresh vegetables in real life. It's about whether or not Congress intended to protect them from this kind of non-payment.
Here's the definition from PACA that is apparently under question:
And here are some definitions from the regulations written to implement this law:
I maintain that the discussion is not as ridiculous as it would first seem. Note the source to which the IP link points: a Common Dreams News Center web page. Their unabashed tagline reads, "Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community." One would definitely expect a liberal bias. (But note, too, that the story is a republication of a Los Angeles Times story, not that that precludes any bias, but they certainly don't wave their particular point-of-view as a banner like Common Dreams do.)
So back to the title of this post. Where are we to find the voice of reason in news stories these days? It's certainly not among the conservative sources. But it's generally not among the liberal sources either. I consider myself a liberal, but that's mainly because I abhor so much of what comes out of conservative camps. There's a lot to deride from the liberal camp as well. This article is a tiny, tiny example of the kind of non-sensical reporting I see so often. The stories I notice like this are usually the ones that concern some topic with which I have some familiarity. The lack of common sense and reason I see in these stories makes me wonder how much common sense and reason there can be in stories on topics with which I have little or no familiarity.
Where's the voice of reason to be found? How long can a society tolerate the strident voices of nonsense and mere passion?