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Time for a Shower (Before It’s Too Late)

From The Scrapbook.

Aug 2, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 43
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The Scrapbook, like any patriotic American, always enjoys those European Union anecdotes that show up occasionally in the news: You know, the ones about the Italian-born bureaucrat in Brussels who fines a neighborhood butcher in Cornwall for not preparing Cornish hens according to EU specifications. Nothing like that would ever happen in these United States. 

Unless, of course, you find yourself in your bathroom, and look around. Over there is the federally mandated toilet which, in compliance with the Energy Policy Act (1992), flushes—or attempts to flush—its meager supply of 1.6 gallons of water. And in the shower, it is possible (although statistically unlikely) that you are one of those lucky Americans who has recently installed a “luxury” shower fixture that features a wide head and multiple nozzles that spray and squirt and otherwise bathe you in a therapeutic avalanche of H2O. 

If so, you might want to consult your lawyer. For the U.S. Department of Energy, in its newfound zeal to persuade citizens to conserve water, is enforcing the provision of the aforementioned Energy Policy and Conservation Act which requires that a showerhead deliver no more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute at a flowing water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch. Got that? Until recently, manufacturers understood “showerhead” to mean a device that showers water onto a bather, and each nozzle was considered to be a separate component in compliance with the 2.5-gallon requirement. But the Obama Energy Department, and its general counsel, Scott Blake Harris, have decided otherwise, and are levying substantial civil penalties on manufacturers of “luxury” showerheads. 

So far, the heavy hand of the DOE has fallen on manufacturers only. But just as it is a violation of federal law for a homeowner to install a 3.5-gallon, pre-Al Gore toilet in the bathroom of his private home, The Scrapbook assumes that the Obama administration will soon require citizens to bathe in compliance with its mandatory showerhead regulations. Or face prosecution. “Did Congress limit consumer choice?” asks Mr. Harris in the Wall Street Journal. “Absolutely. When you waste water, you waste energy.” 

If all of this sounds vaguely ridiculous, that is because it is. The Scrapbook is all in favor of voluntary conservation, and our idea of a luxurious shower is one where the showerhead actually functions properly. But the fact is that the number of Americans who possess “luxury” showerheads is estimated to be somewhere between 1 and 4 percent of the populace—not exactly a tidal wave of environmental arrogance—and a certain number of those are people who benefit from such devices for medical reasons. 

It may seem trivial to look askance at government regulations about bathroom fixtures, and a senior bureaucrat who revels in limiting consumer choice. But when federal law governs the way we flush toilets and take a shower—and threatens punishment for defiance—there is good reason to worry about the next particle of freedom on the progressive hit list. ♦

The ‘Journolist’ Scandal

Forgive us if we indulge in a little shop talk this week. The Scrapbook is well aware that journalists sometimes overestimate the degree to which the public is interested in our professional gossip. So we don’t blame you if you have tuned out the “Journo-list” story that has been all the buzz among Washington scribes—preoccupying them as only stories that feature bloggers talking about how other bloggers talk about bloggers can do. Still, we think there are items of larger interest amid the backbiting.

Journolist, until it was recently shut down by its founder, Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, was an invitation-only group of 400 or so liberal and left-wing writers, bloggers, reporters, think-tankers, academics, and assorted hangers-on. They traded emails with one another—political chat, professional gossip, sports gab—and promised as a condition of membership to keep their discussions private. 

Klein shut down the list last month after leaks from it caused one of his Washington Post colleagues to lose his job. The surprising thing, really, was not the leaks—this is a group of journalists, in the main, people who purvey leaked information for a living—but that they took so long to occur. Journolist members had been chattering away for three years and the law of omertà had mostly been upheld. 

No longer. Tucker Carlson’s new online publication Daily Caller is apparently in possession of most or all of the group’s archived discussions and began parceling them out last week. The headlines give the broad outline:

“Documents show media plotting to kill stories about Rev. Jeremiah Wright”

“Liberal journalists suggest government shut down Fox News”

“Journolist’s anti-Palin crusade of 2008”

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