Politicizing Science: An Ongoing Series

Yesterday I listed the various ways that the current mess at NASA (more here and here) should look familiar to experienced administration-watchers. There was the deliberate under-enforcement by appointed hacks, the intimidation of career professionals trying to do their job, and of course the fiscal mismanagement. I’m embarrassed to admit today that, via this morning’s New York Times, I missed a few other common points.

First, the annoying habit of using mid-level agency positions as a patronage mill for the inexperienced but ideologically pure:

The Big Bang memo came from Mr. Deutsch, a 24-year-old presidential appointee in the press office at NASA headquarters whose résumé says he was an intern in the “war room” of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. A 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he was also the public-affairs officer who sought more control over Dr. Hansen’s public statements.

In October 2005, Mr. Deutsch sent an e-mail message to Flint Wild, a NASA contractor working on a set of Web presentations about Einstein for middle-school students. The message said the word “theory” needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.

The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”

…On Friday evening, repeated queries were made to the White House about how a young presidential appointee with no science background came to be supervising Web presentations on cosmology and interview requests to senior NASA scientists.

You also find the reassigning of agency resources for the sake of dingbat crusades:

Starting early in 2004, directives, almost always transmitted verbally through a chain of midlevel workers, went out from NASA headquarters to the agency’s far-flung research centers and institutes saying that all news releases on earth science developments had to allude to goals set out in Mr. Bush’s “vision statement” for the agency, according to interviews with public-affairs officials working in headquarters and at three research centers.

…One NASA scientist, William Patzert, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, confirmed the general tone of the agency that year.

That was the time when NASA was reorganizing and all of a sudden earth science disappeared,” Mr. Patzert said. “Earth kind of got relegated to just being one of the 9 or 10 planets. It was ludicrous.”

In retrospect you could superimopse the problems at NASA over any of a dozen other Bush administration scandals from Katrina to the disastrous reconstruction of Iraq. I have no doubt that the current NSA scandal will turn out the same way, with a dingbat administrator, Lt. Gen. Hayden, and some ideologically pure appointees intimidating career professionals into a half-baked and illegal drain on critical agency resources. It’s unreasonable at this point to expect anything different.

***Update***

And more! If an agency submits an ideologically-inconvenient scientific report, just rewrite the report.

In an unprecedented action, the Environmental Protection Agency’s own scientific panel on Friday challenged the agency’s proposed public health standards governing soot and dust.

….Some panel members called the administrator’s actions “egregious” and said his proposals “twisted” or “misrepresented” their recommendations.

….Cal/EPA’s air pollution epidemiology chief, Bart Ostro, charged during the teleconference that the EPA had incorporated “last-minute opinions and edits” by the White House Office of Management and Budget that “circumvented the entire peer review process.”

One of those plays that never gets old.

From the same article, one last maneuver from the Bush playbook (playpamphlet?). What’s the point of drafting complicated policies when you could have your friends in industry write it for you:

[Ostro] said research that he and others had conducted also had been misrepresented in the EPA’s lengthy justification for the proposed new standards.

In an interview later, Ostro said he was referring to marked-up drafts of Johnson’s proposals that showed changes by the White House budget office and language that was “very close to some of the letters written by some of the trade associations.”

One thing you can say for sure is that they’ll keep calling these plays as long as they keep winning.

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66 replies
  1. 1
    Otto Man says:

    Hey, those 24-year-old young Republicans did a bang-up job with the reconstruction of Iraq. Why not let them determine our scientific standards as well?

    I, for one, welcome our new overlords.

  2. 2
    Gary Farber says:

    I just came over to check if you had this story yet; I blogged about it here just a bit ago. I also linked to Mark Kleiman’s take.

    It was pleasing to have my previous assertion that George Deutch, the flack hack, would turn out to be a presidential appointment, confirmed, although I would have been extremely surprised if it had been otherwise.

  3. 3
    Pooh says:

    I’m not surprised, but I am confused…why? What political points could be scored by muzzling NASA? I don’t get what constituency is being played to. I mean it’s objective stupidity combined with no political utility. Odd.

  4. 4
    Tim F. says:

    It makes perfect sense if you appreaciate that NASA losing its ability to monitor climate is a feature, not a bug.

  5. 5
    Otto Man says:

    I’m not surprised, but I am confused…why? What political points could be scored by muzzling NASA?

    I can’t recall where I saw it — and Blogspot is currently down, which means so are half the blogs I normally read — but the 24-year-old Bush flack made some statement that NASA’s findings were somehow a slap in the face of those pushing the intelligent design nonsense.

  6. 6
    Tim F. says:

    The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”

    From this blog post.

  7. 7
    Otto Man says:

    From this blog post.

    Yeah, it’s always in the last place you look, isn’t it?

  8. 8
    Far North says:

    What do you expect when the people that have contempt for government are put in control of that very government?

    Bush republicans don’t look at Government jobs as a way to serve the people or help the US as a whole. Bush republicans treat these jobs as ways of rewarding thier loyal supporters. Government jobs to them are for handing out to campaign workers or Bush Pioneers and Rangers.

  9. 9
    KC says:

    Par for the course as far as I’m concerned. Next we’ll be hearing about how the Founding Fathers were not trying to limit the powers of the Executive, but expanding them.

  10. 10
    Daniel Messing says:

    from: http://www.junkscience.com/
    Increasingly bizarre: “Top climatologist forecasts swift ice cap collapse” – “THE Greenland ice cap could collapse many times faster than forecast, the US government’s top climate modeller has warned.

    On Monday, the UK government released a report saying that climate change was close to a “tipping point” that could trigger the ice sheet’s collapse over the next thousand years, causing sea level to rise by seven metres worldwide. It suggests that the melting would follow a wave of warmth pushing through the 3-kilometre thick ice.

    In a recent interview with New Scientist, Jim Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said the collapse of the ice sheet could be “explosively rapid”, with sea levels rising “a couple of metres this century, and several more next century”.

    Hansen, who last week claimed that NASA was trying to gag him from making such predictions, says scientists have already spotted meltwater pouring down crevasses to the bottom of the ice sheet, where it could provide lubrication for huge swathes of ice to slip into the ocean.” (New Scientist)

    Curiously, we were told only in November, 2005, that Greenland’s ice cap is growing rather than shrinking (due to global warming, probably, we add cynically). Data from the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, prepared in collaboration with the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia (HadCRUT2(v)) shows Greenland’s peak temperature occurring in 1929, then cooling until 1993, something which does not suggest extreme sensitivity to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. In fact, if we have a look at ice core data, the last 7 centuries or so have been the coldest sustained period central Greenland has suffered during the Holocene (current interglacial period), also far from supportive of the hypothesis that humans have unnaturally heated the planet to never before experienced levels.

    Just while we are mentioning Had/CRU, we managed to download data to November, 2005, on December 15th but are informed that the latest file now available contains data only to August 2005. We do not know why the files have reverted but their graphic was updated January 18th and appears to include December’s data. Rest assured that we will update the Global Temperature page with the latest ‘official numbers’ just as soon as we gain access to the updated data.”

  11. 11
    Par R says:

    Clearly, this is off topic, but if you want to see what Jon Stewart was referring to when he said on his Wednesday show: “This is where boners go when they die.” Link:

    http://news.yahoo.com/photo/06.....963390.jpg

  12. 12
    stickler says:

    Next we’ll be hearing about how the Founding Fathers were not trying to limit the powers of the Executive, but expanding them.

    Heh. Back before we invaded Iraq, I had a tenacious online set-to with a “conservative” who argued that war is good for civil liberties and for the state. When I provided him with a half-dozen quotes from Madison and Franklin, etc., all condemning war, he nitpicked them and tried to turn their obvious meaning on their head. He also argued vociferously that the Founding Fathers were, to a man, Bible-believin’ Christians.

    It was like arguing with a magic mirror. Facts had no effect on him whatsoever.

    So, actually, KC, I’d be willing to bet some idiot has already argued that the Founding Fathers really meant for us to have a King.

  13. 13
    VidaLoca says:

    Par R —

    Man, I have to hand it to you on that one. Who says there’s no such thing as right-wing humor. LMAO.

  14. 14
    Perry Como says:

    So, actually, KC, I’d be willing to bet John Yoo has already argued that the Founding Fathers really meant for us to have a King.

    I corrected that for you.

  15. 15
    Perry Como says:

    Oh, and this thread needs more manimal.

  16. 16
    SeesThroughIt says:

    Clearly, this is off topic, but if you want to see what Jon Stewart was referring to when he said on his Wednesday show: “This is where boners go when they die.”

    That was a great joke Stewart did. I mean, not even Ron Jeremy could’ve gotten it up if he had to look at Hillary looking like that. Yikes.

  17. 17
    MC says:

    I have no great love for the clowns running the Oval Office, but putting unqualified partisan hacks in the federal bureaucracy is a tradition at least as old as the Democratic Party, probably older, but most clearly associated with the first “modern” Dem.

    Isn’t it ironic that the Hero of New Orleans was indirectly responsible for the Buffoon of New Orleans two centuries later?

  18. 18
    stickler says:

    I have no great love for the clowns running the Oval Office, but putting unqualified partisan hacks in the federal bureaucracy is a tradition at least as old as the Democratic Party, probably older, but most clearly associated with the first “modern” Dem.

    Wow. The War on Straw Men continues apace. Evidence? Not much. Relevance of Andrew Jackson to the Bush Administration’s abject failure in the wake of Katrina? Nil.

    Still, nice try.

    Oh, and Perry Como: thanks, my imagination failed me. I was thinking of bloggers who would have argued something as asinine as unlimited Executive authority. I’d forgotten about actual servants of the Executive. One thing is for sure: this Administration never fails in its ability to surprise. All the surprises are nasty ones, but still it’s impressive.

  19. 19

    […] Update: Phil Plait has extensive comments at Bad Astronomy Blog. Also Pharyngula, Balloon Juice, Stranger Fruit, and various blogspot sites that are all down. […]

  20. 20
    Pooh says:

    All the surprises are nasty ones,

    I dunno, the manimal thing will keep me in punchlines for months. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. Just like dining privileges at Abramoff’s joint.

  21. 21
    Gray says:

    Hmm, looks like it’s enough to know the bible by heart and worked in the Bush campaign to get a leading job at NASA.

    But I guess there have been worse nutcases working at NASA. Take a look at this guy who claims he was there as an engineer from 1972-1997:
    “We are a Home Church on the east coast of Florida, USA. I am Larry Wood, the local pastor and author of the web site. As members of the Body of Christ in Client Nation USA, we have established a command post in the region of Zebulun.”
    http://www.biblenews1.com/aboutus.htm#About%20Us

    Check his website for pearls of wisdom like this one:
    “Kennedy was killed by Oswald on Day 326, for Political Babylon. Kennedy was a politician. Oswald died of a gunshot would to the stomach, which represents Political Babylon. Oswald killed a policeman, which represented a counterattack of Ecumenical Babylon in the city. And Ruby died of lung cancer, which represents darkness from the counterattack of Cosmic Babylon. The combination of Ecumenical, Political, and Cosmic Babylon represents slavery to the Cosmic System of Satan.”
    http://www.biblenews1.com/index.html

    Unbelievable…why didn’t the Bush administration call this true believer back to NASA?

  22. 22
    KC says:

    Speaking of science, anyone read this great article from the Post that is basically a break down of total information snooping? I think what this guy has to say is pretty interesting:

    Jeff Jonas, now chief scientist at IBM Entity Analytics, invented a data-mining technology used widely in the private sector and by the government. He sympathizes, he said, with an analyst facing an unknown threat who gathers enormous volumes of data “and says, ‘There must be a secret in there.’ ”

    But pattern matching, he argued, will not find it. Techniques that “look at people’s behavior to predict terrorist intent,” he said, “are so far from reaching the level of accuracy that’s necessary that I see them as nothing but civil liberty infringement engines.”

    It certainly sounds like the NSA spying thing is all about data mining. It also sounds like all the bugs haven’t been worked out with it either. If Congress, which stopped the “Total Information Awareness” program from going forward just a few years ago, decides now for the President’s sake to let this similar program go forward (and lets face it, covering the President’s ass is really what allowing it would be about), it sounds like they have some sticky issues to look at.

  23. 23
    Richard Bottoms says:

    One thing you can say for sure is that they’ll keep calling these plays as long as they keep winning.

    **blink** **blink**

    I’m not even going to say it.

    I think you’ve learned your lesson.

  24. 24
    CJ says:

    Daniel Messing: Are you sure you want to be promoting the authoritative word of yet another right wing hack caught accepting money for printing favored opinions as fact?

  25. 25
    ThirdGorchBro says:

    One of these days, Richard Bottoms is going to start actually looking at the author of the post before he starts in with his “you voted for Bush” spiel.

    On topic, I’d be curious to know how the levels of cronyism and incompetence in the Bush administration actually compare with previous Presidencies. They seem to be much higher than in the Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton admins, but what about LBJ and Nixon? I’m also curious how they compare the the glory days of patronage under Grant and his successors.

    Not, I hasten to add, that past corruption and incompetence excuses its present-day incarnation. I’m just curious if there’s some way of measuring it.

  26. 26
    Richard Bottoms says:

    One of these days, Richard Bottoms is going to start actually looking at the author of the post before he starts in with his “you voted for Bush” spiel.

    Forgive me for assuming that only John posts stories on HIS blog. As for my “spiel” I was going easy on the guy seeing how this is indeed John’s fault becaue he voted for these assholes.

    But since John has also decided he’s going to basically throw his vote away and vote libertarian, which is fine by because it’s one less vote for Republican fools and liars, I decided to refrain from needling him about his past indescretion.

    Thus my slight and indirect dig.

    On topic, I’d be curious to know how the levels of cronyism and incompetence in the Bush administration actually compare with previous Presidencies.

    Hmm, none of these guys seem to be president anymore. Nor did they swear theyw ere going do things differently and with honor like president Potato Head.

    For anyone else who voted for these clowns and intends to vote for them again in November I can only quote Bugs Bunny:

    “Sucker.”

    (insert picture of your head turning into a lollipop)

  27. 27
    Jon H says:

    Gray writes: “Hmm, looks like it’s enough to know the bible by heart and worked in the Bush campaign to get a leading job at NASA.”

    Actually, I bet he’s only vaguely familiar with the bible, but he knows how to fake it.

    That’s how most of them operate. I doubt he knows the 10 commandments.

  28. 28
    stickler says:

    On topic, I’d be curious to know how the levels of cronyism and incompetence in the Bush administration actually compare with previous Presidencies. They seem to be much higher than in the Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton admins, but what about LBJ and Nixon? I’m also curious how they compare the the glory days of patronage under Grant and his successors.

    Funny you should ask, Mr. GorchBro. I think (and I teach US history, so I’m not quite just pulling this out of my ass) that the current Administration is in the running for All Time US Champion at mendacity, cronyism, and incompetence.

    The wild card that gives them the lead is the war in Iraq. Foreign wars weren’t our thing back in Grant’s day. And, though his Administration was fabulously corrupt, at least Grant himself was honest and had a very sharp intellect; he beat Bobby Lee, anyhow. At the end of his life, back before ghostwriters, he wrote his personal memoirs, a massive and practically unmatched tome of history, all while dying of throat cancer. Please imagine George W. Bush doing the same thing (writing his own memoirs, not dying of throat cancer).

    Iraq is a wild card because we didn’t do the ginned-up overseas war before 1898. And when we did do it that time, our mendacious Republican leaders at least won it quick and clean. (Ahem: this depends on how you evaluate the Philippine Insurrection that followed and lasted until 1902, costing the lives of 4,000 US soldiers and over 200,000 Filipinos.)

    Harding’s administration was pretty spectacularly corrupt, too, but Harding had the decency to die in 1923 and anyway he didn’t start any wars. And his VP, Coolidge, was so tightly-laced and honest he squeaked. Coolidge didn’t take a huge pension from any blood merchants defense contractors while in office, at least.

    LBJ helped whip up the Vietnam war (Gulf of Tonkin! Light at the end of the Tunnel!), but he didn’t start it, and for all his big-government spending, he did, after all, submit a balanced budget for FY 1969. Think George W. Bush will manage that for FY 2009?

    All in all, given W’s re-election in 2004 and the current shitmire in Mesopotamia, along with the Harding-esque personnel issues, I’d say it’s pretty much a lock that this will go down in history as the Worst Presidency Ever.

    And that’s as things stand in February 2006. We haven’t attacked Iran yet, the Shia are still kind of quiet in the south of Iraq, and only a sliver of the GOP leadership has been indicted. And gasoline is still $2.19/gallon. Bookmark this post and check back in a couple years.

  29. 29
    MC says:

    Appointing no-talent partisan fluffers has been happening at all levels of government in different agencies in varying degrees since the dawn of political parties. I mentioned Jackson only because he’s the President most famous for it, but he’s certainly not by any means the worst, nor was he the first and Bush won’t be the last.

    Putting a 24-year old with minimal qualifications in a supervisory role over public affairs at NASA is no different than the politicization of emergency management, Iraq Reconstruction, the politicization of intelligence gathering or the politicization of national defense and economics.

    All of these are “technical” aspects of the administration of government – Gen. Shinseki, the DOJ attorneys, and James Hansen all have highly-specialized knowledge, but they are also bureaucrats that impact public policy. For Bush, like Jackson, these are the worst kind of bureaucrats. They were not appointed by his government so they operate “against the manifest will of the people.”

    In Bush’s mind, these unappointed bureaucrats must be kept in line by his own people because that’s the only way democratic accountability can be enforced on them. If the appointees happen to be ex-campaign staffers, the daughter of friendly conservative commentators, or the niece of an ally inside in the military leadership, these people still represent the interests of the President and by extension, the interests of the majority of the country.

    For years, government economists have had to revise estimates uner political pressure, intelligence analysts and foreign service officers have had to cook their reports to suit the desires of those in power…it’s time for government scientists to bend over and grab their ankles. I don’t like it, but at the same time, the idea of an entrenched non-accountable technocratic elite isn’t so swell either. That’s the trade-off, but it’s a problem older than time. It ain’t nothing new and it ain’t going away.

  30. 30
    Richard Bottoms says:

    That’s the trade-off, but it’s a problem older than time. It ain’t nothing new and it ain’t going away.

    So when GW says his administration is neither corrupt nor unaccountable he’s lying?

    I tend to agree of course.

  31. 31
    stickler says:

    That’s the trade-off, but it’s a problem older than time. It ain’t nothing new and it ain’t going away.

    See, the problem with this is that it’s bullshit. Yeah, corruption is a temptation as old as time. But at many times in our history we have done a creditable job as a Republic in taming this impulse and instituting credible government.

    To throw up your hands and say, “well, ’twas ever thus” is a total cop-out. The corrupt bastards in charge of our Republic right now want you to do precisely this. “Nothin’ to see here, move along, at least we’re not as bad as Boss Tweed, how’s about a nice little war in Iran? Maybe another tax cut? Or how about some subsidized Viagra? The missus’ll thank you for a fortnight!”

  32. 32
    searp says:

    Stickler: excellent series of posts. I’d like to add that my perspective is that the Republican party is completely captured by folks that have one objective: funnel our tax money to their corporate friends. It isn’t corruption, it is a feature.

    This perspective almost completely explains the domestic policu of this administration. Get rid of taxes on corporations and regulations and/or regulatory enforcement. Vote subsidies of various sorts.

    The war, abortion, religion, blah blah are really just devices to ensure that they get a decent number of votes from people that aren’t in the game. To them this NASA thing is a twofer: more public relations for the fooled and a way to justify dumping environmental regs. “No data” works pretty well.

  33. 33
    Par R says:

    It’s all well and good that some of you useless morons actually believe all this rubbish…your views don’t really count for poop as long as the face of opposition to the President and his policies is increasingly being seen as the grotesque loons such as represented by Moveon, Kos and atrios or any number of other highly visible idiots. Here’s an example that NRO Online highlights from atrios that will receive a fair amount of play tomorrow on talk radio and elsewhere:

    What’s A City or Two?
    Nuanced foreign policy analysis from the popular left-wing blogger Atrios, who doubles as a key player at David Brock’s Media Matters for America watchdog site:

    “Look, I just don’t get this stuff. I don’t want Iran to have nukes. I don’t think that’s a good thing for the world. I certainly didn’t want Pakistan or India to have nukes. But is a nuclear Iran really a threat to us? Certainly an Iran-with-nukes could blow the hell out of a city or two, but an Iran that did such a thing would pretty much cease to exist. It isn’t mutually assured destruction, it’s you f–k with us a little bit and YOU NO LONGER LIVE BITCHES!”

  34. 34
    DougJ says:

    Appointing no-talent partisan fluffers has been happening at all levels of government in different agencies in varying degrees since the dawn of political parties. I mentioned Jackson

    That’s pretty good Bush apologism. Normally, the Bushbots just say Clinton did it. But Andrew Jackson did it? That adds a whole level of historicism to the talking point.

    Bravo! You’re the Ken Burns of Bush apologism.

  35. 35
    Perry Como says:

    Par R Says

    If you’re not DougJ, you’re doin’ a heckuva job.

    If you are DougJ, doesn’t the ctrl-c/ctrl-v of LGF get old?

  36. 36
    MC says:

    Yeah, corruption is a temptation as old as time. But at many times in our history we have done a creditable job as a Republic in taming this impulse and instituting credible government.

    I never said the word “corrupt”. You’re equating corruption with under-qualification, incompetence, and cronyism. The problem isn’t corruption, it’s how to maintain a bureaucracy that’s democratically responsive without sacrificing technical expertise.

    What happened at NASA wasn’t corrupt and it wasn’t illegal, it was an underqualified political appointee telling a civil servant with technical expertise to STFU. Wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last – that’s the intractable problem and this country has NEVER done a good job controlling for that.

    I’m not apologizing for Bush, but I am apologizing for the system.

    Administration in the United States must be at all points sensitive to public opinion. A body of thoroughly trained officials serving during good behavior we mush have in any case: that is a plain business necessity. But the apprehension that such a body will be anything un-American clears away the moment it is asked, What is to constitute good behavior? For that question obviously carries on its own answer on its face. Steady, hearty allegiance to the policy of the government they serve will constitute good behavior.

  37. 37
    DougJ says:

    MC, I don’t think you’ve got quite enough historical perspective here. Cronyism was rampant under Roman emperors like Nero. And Charlemagne may have called himself the Holy Roman Emperor, but he was more like the Emperor of Corruption.

    How come we never hear about that? Is it because Charlemagne and Nero were Democrats? The hypocrisy of the librul MSM never ceases to amaze me.

  38. 38
    MC says:

    I think you have me pegged all wrong…I’ve worked for political appointees in the past from both parties. In some cases, I worked for sharp individuals that I didn’t always agree with, but I respected. Other times, I worked for complete boobs that should thanks their lucky stars they’re politically connected – it would be a harsh, cruel world for them otherwise.

    In either case – what they say, goes. The public, in all its infinite wisdom, elected the person that placed the appointee to oversee my work. Who the hell am I, or any civil servant, to contradict the will of the people?

    Obviously in some cases, dissent is appropriate but you aren’t being directing to commit genocide. The bright line between responsiveness and moral objection isn’t so bright. Does this apply to executing policies that reject science, declare ketchup a vegetable, or using non-standard formulas to inflate revenue numbers? I know for myself, but good luck coming up with a general rule. If the public gets suckered into electing a complete moron that fills the government up with hacks THEN sends him back a second time and you’re a government employee, it might be time to consider a new line of work.

    I wish the public would always pick the right guy for the job in an election. I wish elected officials, even if I agree with their policies, wouldn’t put former campaign staffers or know-nothing yes-men into appointments. It doesn’t always happen that way and when it doesn’t, as a civil servant, you have two choices – suck it up or leave. That’s the price of democracy.

  39. 39
    ThirdGorchBro says:

    I’d just like to thank stickler and MC for actually giving me a serious answer and for having a reasoned, intelligent discussion with each other. Though I do enjoy DougJ and Perry Como, too.

  40. 40
    Perry Como says:

    Obviously in some cases, dissent is appropriate but you aren’t being directing to commit genocide.

    At least there is a line.

  41. 41
    DougJ says:

    Obviously in some cases, dissent is appropriate but you aren’t being directing to commit genocide.

    Speak for yourself.

  42. 42
    MC says:

    Not too long ago, some of the same people arguing with me were complaining about pharmacists that withhold prescriptions due to personal moral objections. Their consensus opinion – if you won’t do your job, find a new line of work.

    The same thing goes for bureaucrats. If you won’t do your job and execute “steady, hearty allegiance to the policy of the government they serve”, get a new line of work. These are the rules of the game.

    The same thing for pharmacists holds true for bureaucrats – do your damn job.

    If Hansen doesn’t like how things are at NASA, he can go find a teaching or research position at a university until he can live with the political climate and return.

    I don’t like George Bush, but he is the democratically-elected leader of the Federal Government. The people of this country chose to put the government in his hands and as an employee of the Federal Government, if you can’t adhere to the policies he puts forward, you are subverting democratic principles and contradicting the popular opinion of the majority of voting Americans.

    A bureaucrat, no matter how much expertise they may have, should be very, very careful when substituting their individual judgment for the judgement of the majority. Rejection of the policies of the elected leadership sets a dangerous precident – will we need a wholesale replacement of the Federal Government when a Democrat becomes elected President? Is it in the best interest of the country to have massive turnover in government because bureaucrats can’t be trusted to play nice with the administration in power?

    When this country voted for George Bush, they voted for religion over science, corporations over individuals, war over peace, expansion of government over civil liberties…these are the policies of the United States. We can argue that people had some false consciousness and didn’t really want these things or expect they would get them from the election. The truth is – we’ve had two elections – a Congressional and Presidential election where the people of this country could choose a different set of policies. There has been more than ample opportunity to reverse the policy direction of the President and the GOP.

    The majority did not. These are the policies of this country.

  43. 43

    It’s Just a Theory

    Last night the science wing and the reason driven political wing of the blogshere (Chris Mooney, John Lynch, DarkSyde, World O’Crap, Sean Carroll, Tim F., Phil Plait, Amygdala, John in DC, Altrios, Mark Kleiman, PZ Myers) lit up with righteous…

  44. 44
    Otto Man says:

    The same thing for pharmacists holds true for bureaucrats – do your damn job.

    While I don’t have a copy of his job description in front of me, I’d imagine that his official job is to conduct research and report the scientific findings as they stand, not to color them to support the political talking points of the current administration.

    This isn’t at all like the pharmacist scenario. In that case, the pharmacist was letting his personal religious beliefs get in the way of his job. In this case, the scientist had the personal religious beliefs of someone else — someone with no background in science — get in the way of his job.

    If the 24-year-old PR flack wants to make the world safe for Intelligent Design, then he should find another job.

  45. 45
    DougJ says:

    Right on, MC. What these moonbats don’t understand is that their left wing theories are fine in the class room. But we’re at war and there’s no time for dissent in the bureaucracy. Screw Hanaon — let him teach at a community college. That commie son of a bitch.

  46. 46
    MC says:

    Otto Man:

    No matter Hansen’s job duties, he performs them in the service of the United States Government. Everyone in the Federal Government, whether it’s the building maintenance guy, the economist at OMB, or the scientist at NASA serves the people of the United States.

    The people of the United States, through the election of George Bush, have declared that it is not in the interest of this country to advance scientific theories that contradict literal interpretations of the Bible.

    The pharmicist is licensed by the state to serve the people of the state. If the people of the state want birth control, he serves them filling legally authorized and medically sound prescriptions.

    The majority of the people in this country don’t want science that interferes with literal interpretations of the Bible. Hansen needs to do his job accordingly. The people of this country want expert campaign fundraisers and party insiders to direct government services and initiatives. The career bureaucrats at FEMA, the State Dept., the Department of Defense, the CIA, the NSA, the DOJ, the DOI, OMB, etc…must do their job accordingly.

    I know this sounds like Bush apologia or wingnut nonsense, but I’m standing on the principle of a democratically-accountable bureaucracy, regardless of the party or policies in power. This is why elections matter.

  47. 47
    Pooh says:

    I don’t like it, but at the same time, the idea of an entrenched non-accountable technocratic elite isn’t so swell either.

    I disagree to an extent. Things that work in the real-world work. Theories that don’t, don’t, and having technically competent people in charge of implementation is vital. That way, even if the policy sucks, it’s at least done well.

  48. 48
    Pooh says:

    MC, you are reading way, WAY too much into election results. You cannot honestly think that the 2004 election was a referendum on pharmacist ethics, can you?

  49. 49
    RSA says:

    The people of the United States, through the election of George Bush, have declared that it is not in the interest of this country to advance scientific theories that contradict literal interpretations of the Bible.

    This is crap on so many levels. . .

    People voted for Bush for many reasons, but the importance of his policies on science wouldn’t break into the top twenty.

    Voters aren’t omniscient; few could have predicted exactly how Bush would treat scientific research, even if the general outline was clear.

    The argument is far too general: You might equally well say that the people of the U.S., having elected Bush, have approved of all of his decisions–putting Michael Brown in charge of FEMA, Harriet Meiers on the Supreme Court, etc.

    Bush was elected to be President, not God Emperor.

  50. 50
    MC says:

    Pooh:

    I didn’t really mean pharmacist ethics specifically, but I said this earlier:

    When this country voted for George Bush, they voted for religion over science, corporations over individuals, war over peace, expansion of government over civil liberties…these are the policies of the United States. We can argue that people had some false consciousness and didn’t really want these things or expect they would get them from the election. The truth is – we’ve had two elections – a Congressional and Presidential election where the people of this country could choose a different set of policies. There has been more than ample opportunity to reverse the policy direction of the President and the GOP.

    The social conservative agenda has been no secret in this country – especially since 2000. I don’t think anyone that voted George Bush can honestly say they didn’t agree with that agenda because you can’t separate the foreign policy and security concerns from the overall plan.

    If you didn’t vote for John Kerry in 2004, the only reasonable course of action to defeat George Bush, you gave tacit approval to the social conservative agenda. By 2004, if anyone honestly thought that Bush’s agenda wasn’t going to include the kind of nonsense that lead to Schiavo or the garbage at NASA today, they’re lying or they weren’t paying attention.

    Nothing that’s going on here today should come as any great surprise to anyone. “Well, I voted for Bush to prosecute the War on Terror, not a War on Science,” doesn’t cut it as an excuse. You KNEW what you were going to get and now they’re getting it.

    I hope the bureaucracy does everything the Bush administration asks and follows their policy faithfully. Maybe then reasonable people will begin to truly understand what happens when you don’t vote for Democrats as either a protest vote on in support of Dem policies.

    Until a Republican gets knocked down for nonsense like this; until someone sends them the message, “I really liked your tax plan, but I don’t like James Dobson.” – this is what we’re going to have to live with.

  51. 51
    Nongeophysical Dennis says:

    MC I see your position, and while it is at least consistent it overlooks a few things. Bureacrats ALWAYS have power to shape implementation of policy–if not explicitly then implicitly. This is why we hire them in the first place. Part of the requirements of the job are that you use your experise to fulfill your job obligations. The NASA mission statement includes studying and protetcing Earth, expressing dissenting opinions may be necessary to accomplish that goal.

    A past example of an entrenched bureaucracy stonewalling directives of their elected bosses is “Don’t ask, Don’t tell.” Bill Clinton almost immediately upon assuming office declared that gays could now serve in the US Military, as Commander in Chief he had that authority, when the Generals and Admirals rebelled, he had the legal authority to sack the military leadership and promote more pliant officers.

    He knew that politically that was utterly impossible and would likely have resulted in his being thrown out of office within months of assuming it. Rightly or wrongly bureacrats (albeit uniformed ones) rejected policy directives from appointees/elected officials and the Republic survived.

    Ours is not a society which expects, or even really accepts unquestioning obedience from its members. If NASA, of its own accord fired thirty probes off to Venus this next year that would be an example of ignoring official leadership and is unacceptable. Giving honest voice to the best available scientific knowledge is part of his job.

    Who knows, maybe a Bush might have a change of position!

    (man, I crack myself up with that last line!)

  52. 52
    canuckistani says:

    Goddamn you conservatives! You sold yourselves to the Religious Right to get their votes, and now look whats happening. They’ve grabbed the power for themselves, and they’re f*cking up everything they touch.
    When NASA has to give equal time to biblical creationism, then you know your country is FUBAR.

  53. 53
    owlbear1 says:

    The same thing goes for bureaucrats. If you won’t do your job and execute “steady, hearty allegiance to the policy of the government they serve”, get a new line of work. These are the rules of the game.
    =================================
    Machiavelli couldn’t have said it better.

    Well, maybe a little…

  54. 54
    Musings says:

    Rubes

    As you’ve all probably heard, a furor has erupted about yet another wingnut political Appointee, a certain George Deutsch, a…

  55. 55
    jack says:

    He wanted to include the word ‘theory’ with Big Bang? So? ‘Big Bang’ is shorthand for that particular theory of how the universe(this univers?) began.

    It IS not proven fact, there are other theoretical models–non-creationist theoretical models. Steady-state, Oscillating, Multiverse.

    This is not the same as arguing that god created everything in six days, or that, even if he didn’t, he DID reach down and guide evolution. Those are undoubtedly faith based arguments.

    One can question the Big Bang on purely scientific grounds.

  56. 56

    […] We haven’t yet reached the point in the NASA story arc (more here, here, here and here) where the Deathmobile, representing science, triumphantly emerges from under the cake and crushes everything in its path. Doubtless that day will come, but in the meantime we can all have the pleasure of watching NASA flack and erstwhile B/C2004 campaign operative George Deutsch make the sad transition from a government player to a pejorative term conflating hubris, theocratic idiocy, ideology-driven patronage hiring and (late bonus) forged credentials. (login mrbig/mrbig): […]

  57. 57

    […] Some might have wondered why we would make a big deal over the amazing mismanagement and scientific intimidation recently revealed at NASA (for more, go to our search window at top left and type in ‘NASA’). It’s just one agency. Pardon the sarcasm, but must seem absolutely ridiculous to think that the pattern of mismanagement documented at NASA would extend to other government agencies. It’s not as if these people have established a pattern of misbehavior or anything. […]

  58. 58

    […] Democratic governments have a particular problem with climate because you can’t convince people you have a problem until it’s already begun to manifest itself, at which point dealing with the problem has become prohibitively expensive and it keeps getting more expensive the longer you wait. Even in the best of cases a sensible solution runs up against inertia, uncertainty and interested parties playing defense, but this isn’t the best of cases. You can’t deal with a problem when your government is made up of “skeptics” determined to deny the problem by thumbing the scales. […]

  59. 59

    […] Balloon Juice Also Pharyngula, Balloon Juice, Stranger Fruit, and various blogspot sites that are all down. […] February 4th, 2006 at 9:54 pm … May 17, 2006 | In Balloon | […]

  60. 60

    […] Balloon Juice Also Pharyngula, Balloon Juice, Stranger Fruit, and various blogspot sites that … Balloon Balloon (aircraft) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Says: … May 21, 2006 | In Balloon | […]

  61. 61

    You already know what I think

    There’s no need to comment on: NASA says — and forces all of its public statements to say — that The Big Bang is just a “theory”. (But there’s no lack of opinion out there, at Cosmic Variance, Bad Astronomy, Pharyngu…

  62. 62

    […] It is why every two years the GOP embarks on a campaign of gay-bashing, despite the fact that Republican elites have no problem with gays in their midst. It is why the GOP chose to attempt to shred the Constitution and suspend years of alleged fealty to the concepts of states rights and federalism and intervene in the lost cause that was Terri Schiavo. It is why, in large part, Bush backtracked on his nomination of Harriet Miers (although the fact that she was supremely unqualified for the position in the eyes of everyone but Hugh Hewitt played a role in her dismissal as candidate). It is why the FBI, despite being tasked to track down terrorists in this ‘fight for civilization’ is sending agents to porn shops and raiding Tommy Chong. It is why religious leaders were given more say on the FDA’s decisions regarding Plan B than the medical community. It is why Bush favors allowing intelligent design to be taught in schools (although in Bush’s ‘defense,’ he may actually be that stupid). It is why pundits and pols favor allowing outright proselytization in the military. It is why 24 year-old punks are given authority over the work done by accomplished veteran scientists. […]

  63. 63

    […] It isn’t just a bad apple, as the whole barrel has gone bad. NASA, the FDA, Justice, FEMA, the Department of the Interior- hell, do I even need to list them all? I am terrified to think what we will learn has been done with the IRS, and God only knows what is going on at Homeland Security. The hacks and the partisans and the phonies and the frauds are in charge, they are deeply entrenched, and it is going to take a bunker buster to root ‘em out. […]

  64. 64

    […] Phil Plait has extensive comments at Bad Astronomy Blog. Also Pharyngula, Balloon Juice, Stranger Fruit, Gary Farber, Mark Kleiman, World O’ Crap, and […]

  65. 65

    I was surprised as well!

  66. 66

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Phil Plait has extensive comments at Bad Astronomy Blog. Also Pharyngula, Balloon Juice, Stranger Fruit, Gary Farber, Mark Kleiman, World O’ Crap, and […]

  2. […] It isn’t just a bad apple, as the whole barrel has gone bad. NASA, the FDA, Justice, FEMA, the Department of the Interior- hell, do I even need to list them all? I am terrified to think what we will learn has been done with the IRS, and God only knows what is going on at Homeland Security. The hacks and the partisans and the phonies and the frauds are in charge, they are deeply entrenched, and it is going to take a bunker buster to root ‘em out. […]

  3. […] It is why every two years the GOP embarks on a campaign of gay-bashing, despite the fact that Republican elites have no problem with gays in their midst. It is why the GOP chose to attempt to shred the Constitution and suspend years of alleged fealty to the concepts of states rights and federalism and intervene in the lost cause that was Terri Schiavo. It is why, in large part, Bush backtracked on his nomination of Harriet Miers (although the fact that she was supremely unqualified for the position in the eyes of everyone but Hugh Hewitt played a role in her dismissal as candidate). It is why the FBI, despite being tasked to track down terrorists in this ‘fight for civilization’ is sending agents to porn shops and raiding Tommy Chong. It is why religious leaders were given more say on the FDA’s decisions regarding Plan B than the medical community. It is why Bush favors allowing intelligent design to be taught in schools (although in Bush’s ‘defense,’ he may actually be that stupid). It is why pundits and pols favor allowing outright proselytization in the military. It is why 24 year-old punks are given authority over the work done by accomplished veteran scientists. […]

  4. You already know what I think

    There’s no need to comment on: NASA says — and forces all of its public statements to say — that The Big Bang is just a “theory”. (But there’s no lack of opinion out there, at Cosmic Variance, Bad Astronomy, Pharyngu…

  5. […] Balloon Juice Also Pharyngula, Balloon Juice, Stranger Fruit, and various blogspot sites that … Balloon Balloon (aircraft) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Says: … May 21, 2006 | In Balloon | […]

  6. […] Balloon Juice Also Pharyngula, Balloon Juice, Stranger Fruit, and various blogspot sites that are all down. […] February 4th, 2006 at 9:54 pm … May 17, 2006 | In Balloon | […]

  7. […] Democratic governments have a particular problem with climate because you can’t convince people you have a problem until it’s already begun to manifest itself, at which point dealing with the problem has become prohibitively expensive and it keeps getting more expensive the longer you wait. Even in the best of cases a sensible solution runs up against inertia, uncertainty and interested parties playing defense, but this isn’t the best of cases. You can’t deal with a problem when your government is made up of “skeptics” determined to deny the problem by thumbing the scales. […]

  8. […] Some might have wondered why we would make a big deal over the amazing mismanagement and scientific intimidation recently revealed at NASA (for more, go to our search window at top left and type in ‘NASA’). It’s just one agency. Pardon the sarcasm, but must seem absolutely ridiculous to think that the pattern of mismanagement documented at NASA would extend to other government agencies. It’s not as if these people have established a pattern of misbehavior or anything. […]

  9. […] We haven’t yet reached the point in the NASA story arc (more here, here, here and here) where the Deathmobile, representing science, triumphantly emerges from under the cake and crushes everything in its path. Doubtless that day will come, but in the meantime we can all have the pleasure of watching NASA flack and erstwhile B/C2004 campaign operative George Deutsch make the sad transition from a government player to a pejorative term conflating hubris, theocratic idiocy, ideology-driven patronage hiring and (late bonus) forged credentials. (login mrbig/mrbig): […]

  10. Musings says:

    Rubes

    As you’ve all probably heard, a furor has erupted about yet another wingnut political Appointee, a certain George Deutsch, a…

  11. It’s Just a Theory

    Last night the science wing and the reason driven political wing of the blogshere (Chris Mooney, John Lynch, DarkSyde, World O’Crap, Sean Carroll, Tim F., Phil Plait, Amygdala, John in DC, Altrios, Mark Kleiman, PZ Myers) lit up with righteous…

  12. […] Update: Phil Plait has extensive comments at Bad Astronomy Blog. Also Pharyngula, Balloon Juice, Stranger Fruit, and various blogspot sites that are all down. […]

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