The Irascible ProfessorSM
Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro

"Garbage in, garbage out...",  (Often abbreviated as GIGO, this is a famous computer axiom meaning that if invalid data is entered into a system, the resulting output will also be invalid. Although originally applied to computer software, the axiom holds true for all systems, including, for example, decision-making systems.... Webopedia.)

Commentary of the Day - August 28, 2001: Fresno Dump Added to the List of National Historic Landmarks by Bush Administration.

When the IP opened up his copy of The Los Angeles Times this morning, he was quite surprised to read the front-page story by Geoffrey Mohan on the recent addition of a "sanitary landfill" on the outskirts of Fresno, CA to the list of National Historic Landmarks.  It seems that Bush's Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, had decided to add the dump to the list because it represented the state-of-the-art in trash disposal when it was first opened in 1935.  The IP quickly stole a look at the calendar on the wall just to make sure that this wasn't an April Fool's joke.  But, no there it was in black and white.  Gale Norton was going to name a Fresno trash heap a National Historic Landmark.  What next?  Maybe they will name a few oil tankers National Landmarks as well.  The Exxon Valdez seems like a good candidate.

Unfortunately, although the Fresno dump site represented a great leap forward in technology when it opened, it has failed to pass the test of time.  Trash was buried in trenches at the dump, compacted and covered with dirt.  However, the trenches were unlined and toxic waste from the site has percolated down into the water table for the past 66 years.  Now the old Fresno Dump has another national distinction.  It's on the "Superfund" list of the nation's worst toxic nightmares.  It seems like Secretary Norton's right hand doesn't know what her left hand is doing.

Now the IP will freely admit that Fresno isn't exactly the garden spot of California, and that it's image could use a bit of sprucing up.  However, putting its dump in the same company as the Carmel Mission, or Hearst Castle, or the Hotel del Coronado, or even Richard M. Nixon's birthplace seems a little over the top.

If Norton really wants to name a dump to the list of National Historic Sites she really should consult first with EPA director Christie Todd Whitman.  With her prior experience as governor of New Jersey, Whitman probably could point Norton to several hundred square miles of the "Garden State" that would qualify.  California, on the other hand, still has a few spots of historical significance that don't yet reek of hydrogen sulfide and other noxious vapors1 even though Mr. Bush seems to be doing his best to drill for oil on most of them.

At last check, the idea of naming a toxic waste site in Fresno to the register of National Historic Sites was being sent back to the staff for "reconsideration".  We should hope so!  This whole business confirms the IP's long-held contention that most politicians, particularly ones who call themselves "education" candidates, don't have enough sense to find their way out a phone booth in Fresno, let alone find their way out of a toxic dump site up there.
1Thanks to sharp-eyed reader J.N. Cooper for noting that our original wording "reek of methane" was incorrect.  Methane is emitted from landfills; but, as the IP should have recalled from his chemistry classes it is a colorless and odorless gas.

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© 2001 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.