Weird Science No More

Thank Chu very much

Thank Chu very much

Scientists and everyone else who value intelligence, accuracy, research, and freedom of thought over dogma are rejoicing over one of PEOTUS  Obama’s  key appointments. The Tribune yesterday used a brief profile of Steven Chu, the new energy secretary, as a jumping-off point to examine the anti-science, pro-corporate stance the Bush Administration has taken the past eight years.

The article mentioned a new report detailing the horror show in the Interior Department that was Julie MacDonald.  One of the more telling quotes in The Endangered Species Act and the Conflict Between Science and Policy appears in the cover letter:  “MacDonald’s zeal to advance her agenda has caused considerable harm to the integrity of the ESA program…as well as harm to individual species. Her heavy-handedness has cast doubt on nearly every ESA decision issued during her tenure.” At least one superior ignored mistakes she made, a sympathetic associate developed short-term amnesia when questioned about her actions, and the government had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending her illegal decisions. Just another day in the world of the Bushies.

Save the gulf sturgeon! And the guy holding it!

Save the gulf sturgeon! And the guy holding it!

The cases investigated revolved around MacDonald and others “delisting” endangered species or determining “critical habitats” were not really critical  for a species’ survival. From my quick scan of the report, it doesn’t seem the government’s actions led to specific companies developing a specific area. But there was a general pattern of ignoring the scientists’ recommendations to fit the ideological goal of lessening government protection of the environment. And there was the general effect of helping corporations by letting them do business in regions that were once considered critical habitats for endangered species. One example – taking shipping channels in the Gulf of Mexico off the critical habitat list for gulf sturgeons. Admittedly, in this case  some government scientists said taking the channels off the list was not ultimately damaging to the fish. Still, it was part of MacDonald’s pattern of overruling the scientists for strictly economic ends.

One of the staffers interviewed offered this assessment of MacDonald, who had no experience in natural science before taking the job:  she “was an odd choice for that position…because she had no interest in species conservation. She [said] she didn’t like the outdoors; she never went outdoors [ED-well, that’s why it’s the INTERIOR Department, duh]. She never went to a national park or wildlife refuge and she never intended to…” One of her more important goals was making sure “developers had the opportunity to make profits.”

This report comes after years of abuse of researchers and the scientific method by the Bush Administration. Remember NASA climatologist James Hansen, who was told to zip it after publicly speaking about the need to reduce greenhouse gases? Thankfully, he had the backbone to resist, and this year he compared oil-company execs to the heads of Big Tobacco, for knowingly spreading disinformation about the health risks of global warming and the human role in it.

On the other side, we had Bush appointing people, like MacDonald, with no expertise in their field, or the wrong kind. In 2001 Philip Cooney was named to the White House Council of Environmental Quality.  His qualifications: a BA in economics and time as a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute. Cooney won attention for changing reports on climate change, even though he did not have a clue about the science involved.

None of this is really news. Bush has shown his contempt for science with stem-cell research and the Schiavo case, as well as with global warming and environmental protection. I’m just heartened to see we finally have a president who’s part of the modern age. Who says “We will make decisions based on facts,” and “my administration values science,” and means it.

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~ by mburgan on December 17, 2008.

2 Responses to “Weird Science No More”

  1. I applaud Chu
    I like your blog. Would you consider exchanging blogroll links?

    I don’t care whether blogroll links and comments agree or disagree as long as they are witty or intelligent, as your blog is. The important thing is that we have intelligent discussions to improve America.

    Our future is what we make it. Idiot Congress and elected officials have proven by example that if we do nothing, we have no future. The first step is never to vote for the person currently in office.

    It helps to have some entertainment, satire and laughs along the journey.

    My blog address is http://franklynchusa.wordpress.com

    If I put a second url in this comment spam filters block me, so if you are interested, google

    frank lynch for president

    and add google’s first url to your blogroll if you really want to improve the future of America a lot

    Thanks

  2. Well, thanks for the kind words Frank, and I will list your blog, because anybody who runs for president seeking universal health care and a green agenda is all right by me. Not so sure about having an ironclad rule about not voting for incumbents, but if it works for you, go for it. If CT voters had followed it in ’06, we would have been spared the agony of Jowlin’ Joe Lieberman this year.

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