The ‘cone of silence’


To the Editor:

I have noticed that taxpayers on the Vineyard actually care about how their tax dollars are spent. When it comes to the local level, they are laser-focused. However, it’s easier to ignore outrageous spending by state and federal agencies, as we think that it is only a few pennies out of our personal pockets, and that is true. But those pennies add up. The proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2018 is 4.094 trillion dollars. That’s a big number: $4,094,000,000,000. If you divide that by the 325 million people living in the U.S, that’s about $242 per week per person, or about $500 per week for every person who has a job.

OK — I don’t pay $500 per week in federal taxes, and neither do most of you. But I care about what my tax dollars are spent on, and I think you do also.

Now, we can disagree as to whether we want our dollars spent on border walls and defense, or school lunches and healthcare. One thing high on my list is protecting the environment.

The reason I am writing this letter is because I noticed an article about Scott Pruit’s “soundproof phone booth.” Yup, a soundproof phone booth — I watched “Get Smart” in the ’60s, and I really got a kick out of the “cone of silence.”

But now I am watching the real world, and I am not getting much of a kick about the head of the E.P.A., Scott Pruitt, getting a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office. Let me point out that this was acquired illegally:

For those of you not reading on your computers, there is a $5,000 limit for such purchases without approval of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which was not even applied for.

For people in the trades, here are some of the breakdowns :

The GAO reported that the breakdown for the bill included “$24,570 for ‘Privacy booth purchase, delivery, and assembly,’ $3,470 for ‘Concrete Floor Leveling,’ $3,360.97 for ‘Drop Ceiling Installation,’ $3,350 for ‘Prep and Wall Painting,’ $7,978 for ‘Removal of CCTV Equipment,’ and $509.71 for ‘Infrastructure Cabling and Wiring.’”

This is a phone booth. $3,470 to level the floor? I can’t find out who got paid to do that, but in the Trump administration, I would bet it is a friend or relative of someone. $3,470 to level the floor of a phone booth — the room this booth was installed in already had a floor.

But here is the real rub — Scott Pruitt is on record that he thinks the EPA is useless — that climate change is not real — and he has done nothing but weaken laws that protect the environment since assuming leadership of the EPA.

With that in mind, the EPA issued a statement. While the agency maintains other areas in its building where officials can place secure calls, and while none of Pruitt’s predecessors have had such a setup, the agency argued in its statement that the privacy booth allows Pruitt to “make and receive calls to discuss sensitive information … (up to the top secret level) for the purpose of conducting agency business.”

I just have to ask: What does the EPA do that requires a top secret–level clearance? Isn’t this the Environmental Protection Agency? What is so “top secret” about that?

Vote them out 2018.


Don Keller

Vineyard Haven


  1. The EPA’s Environmental Radiation Protection Standards for Nuclear Power Operations (40 CFR 190) limit the radiation releases and doses to the public from the normal operation of nuclear power plants and other uranium fuel cycle facilities. No, not entirely useless.
    The standards apply to facilities involved in the milling, conversion, fabrication, use and processing of uraniumfuel for generating electrical power.

  2. The EPA is embedded with liberals like Keller who will do anything for their climate agenda. Pruitt is trying to get rid of them and he has a right to. Keller agonizes about 43k but wants a 46 million new Tisbury school for a declining demographic. We need more people like Pruitt to rid ourselves of embedded beuracrats who go against the interests of most Americans.

    • Andrew– given the costs of Pruitts phone booth, a likely comparison would have the Tisbury school costing 46 billion. — 46 million for a new school is a real bargain compared to a phone booth for 43 thousand.
      My point here is about corruption. You compare a school to a phone booth and don’t seem at all concerned about the cost. Remember the $600 toilet seats during the “fiscally responsible” term of Reagan ?
      It isn’t the $600– it’s the principle of wasteful and likely corrupt spending.
      And I am seriously bothered as to what kind of business a character like Pruitt needs to carry out the duties of his job as protector of the environment. He is negligent in that duty– His job is not to save the polluters money.
      I am sure you would be howling if this had occurred under Obama.

  3. Agreed. I am always dumbfounded at the insinuation that only the Democrats want to spend tax dollars. It turns out in the last 50 years Republicans are vastly more wasteful in spending tax dollars than Democrats. Having a country where the welfare of every person is considered isn’t cheap and liberals recognize this.

    It is the modern Republican voter that has been trained like a dog to cling to the delusion that the Republican Party is somehow fiscally responsible. The well documented facts demonstrate the depth of this fantasy. As long as the GOP voters are kept fearful, angry and confused about the world, then the corporate handlers of our oligarchy will always pull the wool over their eyes.

  4. I’m not going to weigh in on whether Scott Pruitt is good or bad, but you have to acknowledge his actions at the Westlake Landfill in St. Louis. In the documentary Atomic Homefront (HBO) we see the citizens in Missouri pulling their hair out while the EPA under Bush and Obama administrations dithers while an underground fire creeps towards uranium waste in the Missouri landfill. We see endless hearings, delays, and bureaucratic double-speak that would make Kafka and Orwell proud. Scott Pruitt comes in and declares that the waiting for the people of Westlake is over, allocates $280 million to remove the buried uranium waste, and things are in motion. Say what you will about the guy, but he deserves credit here.

    • wesley– you may be right — good for Pruitt – but here we are spending potentially billions of dollars to clean up a severely contaminated site from the early 70’s. But, this happened just before the epa was created. no problem– just dump radioactive waste into the landfill. Let the next generation (us) deal with it . I am sure it made economic sense for the company to just dump it all into the landfill– they made lots of money– people like Andrew love that– and please Andrew, tell me that you care if those people in that area get sick or die. I do– and, I am not happy that my tax dollars are cleaning this up, when it could have been prevented in the first place. Now please– don’t take my comment out a context and say “I am not happy that my tax dollars are cleaning this up,” I want this site cleaned up— I am willing to pay for it– but I resent that the last generation of unconscious capitalist left this mess for me to pay for.

      • No argument there, Don- it was short-sighted greed and idiocy that put the waste in the ground, and a sad comment on humanity that we spend untold resources creating devices (and their concurrent wastes) to maim and poison humanity. I’m just impressed that the bureaucratic gridlock got broken.

  5. Every office of every department in our federal government has excessive financial waste ergo we should reduce federal budgets and spending.
    And in answer to your questions, due to the size of the epa and its overreaching relationship into localities, state governments, and other government departments, one of which might include the DoD, I would see when a TSC might be required.

    • As compared to normal financial waste, such as for department heads getting nice dinnerware, over-priced doors, and vacation on taxpayer’s dime.

      Why do you consider to EPA to be overreaching? You’d want a paper mill upstream polluting your water supply or air you breath, or a chemical plant the town over poisoning the water table used by local wells?

  6. Yes, the bigger the government gets the thicker the fat becomes.
    You cited an example of common sense environmental regulation that a department like the epa should be able to handle with very little difficulty or regulation. I dont think the majority of people would disagree with those examples so it’s a little funny to use it.
    Do you recall parts of the clean water act that labeled puddles and drainage ditches on farms and other municipalities as naviagable water and as such were subject to the regulation of the epa?
    Overreaching or excess I label when a small business can’t possibly hope to understand a government agency or department without the help of an additional consulting firm.

    • I recall the problem with puddles and drainage ditches resulted from hosing away spilled fuel and such.

      As for regulations on small business, closest I come to practical experience is church treasurer. Meh. But my blessings on criticizing DOD spending.

    • whale oil– so you think that the “puddles” and drainage ditches of farms should be exempt from the clean water act ? So let’s make it clear what we are talking about– If i am a farmer, and I have “puddle”or a drainage ditch” on my land, I can dump all my used motor oil, any chemical I may find useful , and any animal waste products into said places. And then where does it all go ? presumably, down hill (since we all know this kind of stuff runs downhill, to a farm that happens to be on that stream at a lower elevation , And then he lets his cows drink that , and you buy that hamburger. And then, if his cows don’t drink all that crap, it all flows by to the next farm, and since there are no regulations about it, that farmer might also have a “puddle” or a ‘drainage ditch” and he will add his agricultural wast to the stream– and so on and so forth– So why do you think that is a good idea ?

  7. The federal government is not your parent, nor is it a cure all. Local enforcement is a much more efficient fix to the example you gave.
    Furthermore by that logic you might as well dump it down your sink drain, or dig a hole and bury it, or burn it, or just add it the cows feed. Of course all of those ideas are horrible, but the EPA, a federal department, is not going to practically be able to prevent that. Clearly these elements in the clean water act were a power grab – more power usually means more to control, thus more funding required. I would further speculate this phone purchase was a ‘use it or lose it’ purchase, an unfortunate part of federal budgeting. That doesn’t make it right, it only speaks to the reason why a department like this could be overfunded, or why fiscal oversight is a common void at the federal level do to its size.
    I dont agree with everything scott pruitt has done or suggested, but I would say the same for regina mccarthy.

    • By your logic, just dump tainted water in your back yard to seep down to the water table. Then just one or two property owners can poison the entire water supply for the Vineyard.

      Can EPA regulations remove pollutants from drinking water? That’s not their goal. Regulations are to prevent pollutants from getting into still clean water.

      • Maybe my point was missed, it was in response to the magic hamburger story. Epa puddle regulation doesn’t solve the problem, it can be done more efficiently at a lowerlevel of government. I think I answered dons original questions pretty well so I’ll leave the rest of this one be.

        • How are State A and State B to handle cross border issues? Federal oversight. That’s the reason for Federal oversight, when State A upriver of State B doesn’t see any need to change their waste disposal ethic. With your solution, State B will continue to get tainted drinking water for decades. But it’s only the health of State B citizens affected …. and every other State downstream.

          If you lived in State A, would you quickly and efficiently fix a pollution problem or drag it out for years?

    • Whale oil– I’m gonna step out on a limb here– some states are represented by people who take advantage of the fact that their constituency is ,to put it kindly, a bit under educated. In those states, people have been exploited, and led to believe that working in a coal mine is a great thing. They have also been conditioned to think that if you take the top of a mountain off, extract coal from it, and throw the tailings into the valleys and streams, that is also a great thing. One thing the federal government does is balance out the ignorance. If a bunch of hicks in east bum luck want to throw their crap into the river, and have it impact the folks of west good luck, it’s the feds who stop them. That’s not over reaching– that’s protecting everyone.

        • You’re trying hard to go off the tracks here. Byrd spoke against giving too much power to both Clinton and Bush 43. Coal was still big in the 1950’s. In 2016, West Virginia voters want the 21st century to come to the state. Let’s talk Trump because he got the job. He promised to bring back coal jobs. Trump is now in the position you’re blaming Byrd for in the 1950’s. Thank you for playing.

          • You’re the one trying to steer it off the tracks. Read his comment, it said THE STATE was represented by people who take advantage…. So when Democrat Byrd wasn’t busy at cross burnings, he hung up his white robes and was representing his people as his state became the environmental wasteland described in the above post. So “back on the tracks” about a phone booth. Perhaps a waste of taxpayer’s money, But no where near the billions wasted by Moochelle on her scenic worldwide trips with her entourages. If you were actually concerned about taxpayer’s money, you should have piped up back then.

          • @notnewhere: You are so far off the tracks with your attempt to deflect. Say whether you agree or disagree that clean drinking water and breathable air should be a concern of the EPA. Maybe we’ll consider a response.

        • not new here– I could care less about whether someone is a democrat or a republican– i care about the environment.

  8. @new Englander. You are so far off the tracks with your attempt to deflect. Trying to point to the 1950’s is more misinformation. Your hero Robert Byrd, the Democrat who wore the white robe and hood (and was given a pass on this despicable activity because he was a Democrat), was Senator of West Virginia until 2010 and presided over his state as it declined into environmental disaster. Donald Trump was elected President of the United states, not Senator of West Virginia but apparently you don’t get that either. ANY and all blame for the environment problems lies clearly on the lap of those who were in charge well before Trump was elected. Say whether you agree or disagree that the billions spent by moochelle on her scenic worldwide trips with her entourages were a waste of taxpayers money. Maybe we’ll consider a response.

        • notnew– typical defensive shut down when you lose the debate– take your ball and go home– that’s fine with me —

          • dondon12- you’re off topic as usual and just like the fake news media you worship, whine when you fail in your attempt to control the narrative.

    • As soon as someone starts using terms such as “Moochelle” while trying to present an argument, you can rest assured that you’re tilting at windmills. Little clean-energy joke for you there. Hey!

      • They melt when one refuses to follow into their swamp.
        A kindness in describing their posts as arguments.

        • not new here– you gotta be kidding about your “moochella’ comment. But thank you for it.That comment alone shines a very bright light on the astounding ignorance that your comments embrace, but are not so blatantly obvious.
          Check the facts comparing Obama expenses to trump expenses.
          And to call the most respected floutus in history “Moochella” really shows the kind of third grade mentality that is endemic in trumps supporters.
          No regard for facts– just childish name calling is good enough for trump*****.

          • A perfect display of 3rd grade mentality is when an adult displays their ignorance by wearing kitchen pots on their head.

          • Dondondon12: Thank you for the effort to dust and vacuum. The next time a potted plant appears, I might take time ONCE to turn it toward the sunlight but can’t make a plastic plant grow.

  9. not new here—I don’t see how exercising my right to wear religious headgear for my drivers license photo has anything to do with a third grade mentality. It seems pretty obvious that you are being out debated here. stick with the topic.

Comments are closed.

Previous articleA new suggested size for Tisbury School
Next articleLt. Gov. Polito will visit the Island