Scientists Say Administration Distorts Facts
By James Glanz
Weapons of Mass Destruction
More than 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, issued a statement yesterday asserting that the Bush administration had systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry at home and abroad.
The sweeping accusations were later discussed in a conference call organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent organization that focuses on technical issues and has often taken stands at odds with administration policy. On Wednesday, the organization also issued a 38-page report detailing its accusations.
The two documents accuse the administration of repeatedly censoring and suppressing reports by its own scientists, stacking advisory committees with unqualified political appointees, disbanding government panels that provide unwanted advice and refusing to seek any independent scientific expertise in some cases.
"Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systemically nor on so wide a front," the statement from the scientists said, adding that they believed the administration had "misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies."
Dr. Kurt Gottfried, an emeritus professor of physics at Cornell University who signed the statement and spoke during the conference call, said the administration had "engaged in practices that are in conflict with spirit of science and the scientific method." Dr. Gottfried, who is also chairman of the board of directors at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the administration had a "cavalier attitude towards science" that could place at risk the basis for the nation's long-term prosperity, health and military prowess.
Dr. John H. Marburger III, science adviser to President Bush and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, said it was important to listen to "the distinguished scientific leadership in this country." But he said the report consisted of a largely disconnected list of events that did not make the case for a suppression of good scientific advice by the administration.
"I think there are incidents where people have got their feathers ruffled," Dr. Marburger said. "But I don't think they add up to a big pattern of disrespect."
"In most cases," he added, "these are not profound actions that were taken as the result of a policy. They are individual actions that are part of the normal processes within the agencies."
The science adviser to Mr. Bush's father, Dr. D. Allan Bromley, went further. "You know perfectly well that it is very clearly a politically motivated statement," said Dr. Bromley, a physicist at Yale. "The statements that are there are broad sweeping generalizations for which there is very little detailed backup."
The scientists denied that they had political motives in releasing the documents as the 2004 presidential race began to take clear shape. The report, Dr. Gottfried said, had taken a year to prepare, much longer than originally planned, and was released as soon as it was ready.
"I don't see it as a partisan issue at all," said Russell Train, who spoke during the call and served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. "If it becomes that way I think it's because the White House chooses to make it a partisan issue."
The letter was signed by luminaries from an array of disciplines. Among the Nobel winners are David Baltimore and Harold Varmus, both biomedical researchers, and Leon M. Lederman, Norman F. Ramsey and Steven Weinberg, who are physicists. The full list of signatories and the union's report can be found at www.ucsusa.org.
Aside from some new interviews with current and former government scientists, some identified in the report and others quoted anonymously, most of the information in the documents had been reported previously by a variety of major newspapers, magazines, scientific journals and nongovernmental organizations.
According to the report, the Bush administration has misrepresented scientific consensus on global warming, censored at least one report on climate change, manipulated scientific findings on the emissions of mercury from power plants and suppressed information on condom use.
The report asserts that the administration also allowed industries with conflicts of interest to influence technical advisory committees, disbanded for political reasons one panel on arms control and subjected other prospective members of scientific panels to political litmus tests.
Dr. Marburger said he was unconvinced by the report's description of those incidents. "I don't think it makes the case for the sweeping accusations that it makes," he said.
But Dr. Sidney Drell, an emeritus professor of physics at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution who was not a signatory to the statement, said the overall findings rang true to him.
"I am concerned that the scientific advice coming into this administration seems to me very narrow," said Dr. Drell, who has advised the government on issues of national security for some 40 years and has served in Democratic and Republican administrations, including those of Presidents Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson. "The input from individuals whose views are not in the main line of their policy don't seem to be sought or welcomed," he said.
Mother Nature, The Hate Crime
More than 60 world-class scientists agree:
BushCo just really, really loathes this planet
By Mark Morford
Today's question: What do you get when more than 60 of the world's top scientists, 20 Nobel Laureates among them, get together and write one of the most scathing, damning reports in the history of modern science, aimed squarely at BushCo's thoroughly atrocious record of cover-ups and obfuscations and outright lies regarding the health of the planet?
What do you get when those very scientists, a highly respected, nonpartisan group called the Union of Concerned Scientists, go on to claim that no other president in modern history has so openly misled the public or been so flagrantly disrespectful of scientific fact and mountains of irrefutable research, deliberately and systematically mutilating scientific data in the service of its rather brutal, pro-corporate, antienvironment agenda?
If you answered, "Why, you get even more painful polyps of sadness and disgust on your soul due to the BushCo onslaught," consider yourself among the millions who are right now rather horrified and appalled and who are wondering just what sort of human -- not what sort of politician, mind you, not what sort of power broker, not what sort of failed Texas oilman corporate lackey -- but what sort of human being you have to be to enact such insidious ongoing planet-gouging legislation, smirking and shrugging all the way. It is not an easy one to answer, as you can only wonder what has gone so horribly wrong, what sort of line has been crossed so that not even the basic dignity of the planet, not even a modicum of respect for it, is the slightest factor anymore in modern American right-wing politics. What, too extreme? Hardly.
The story about the scientist's report is Here
It was broadcast over many major media channels, somewhat loud and mostly clear, though most media was far more eager to bury it under all those more hotly controversial pics of happy gay people smooching on the steps of S.F.'s city hall than they were to trumpet the dire claims of a bunch of boring genius scientists.
Such is the national priority. After all, no one wants to hear how badly we've been duped by this administration, again. Given the nonexistent WMDs and the complete lack of Iraqi nukes and the bogus wars and manufactured fear and a galling budget deficit and nearly 3 million lost jobs and a raft of BushCo lies so thick you need a jackhammer to see some light, no one wants to know that even the world's top scientists are disgusted with our nation's leadership.
We can, after all, take only so much abuse, can be only so karmically and ideologically hammered, before we become so utterly exhausted that we just stop caring.
And, in fact, BushCo would love nothing more than to cripple our outrage and deflect attention away from all the dead U.S. soldiers in Iraq and his overall atrocious record on the war, jobs, the environment and foreign policy, and center it all on divisive issues of God-centric moral righteousness, like all those sicko gay people trying to dignify their sinful love.
This is a president, after all, who truly believes he is doing God's will by turning this country into the most lawless, internationally loathed aggressor on the planet, something I'm sure is very reassuring to those countless thousands of dead Iraqi civilians.
Does it really matter anymore? After all, as any child can tell you, politics has always been a wildly corrupt and slimy profession, valued somewhere between professional wrestler and professional baby-seal clubber on the moral and spiritual scale o' delicious karmic significance.
And, yes, it must be noted that there isn't a U.S. president on record who hasn't somehow deliberately mangled scientific data and covered up important reports during his term in order to further favored policies. Goes almost without saying.
But, as the Union of Concerned Scientists point out, never has the oppression of fact been so systematic, so widespread, so repulsive as that which Bush has wrought. Never has the abuse been so flagrant, the border marking what's morally acceptable so shamelessly crossed.
Maybe you don't believe the hippie environmentalists who are always spouting off about saving the whales and protecting the forests. Maybe you like to hiss at and dismiss, say, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s outstanding, powerfully researched articles in the recent issue of
and the latest issue of The Nation:Kennedy's Article
that carefully delineate just how Bush's enviro record is the worst in history, and call Kennedy just another typical left-wing liberal. You wish to be that small and boorish? Fine.
Not so easy, however, to dismiss a small army of nonpartisan, internationally respected scientists as just more agenda-thick political BS, as BushCo has done. To do so reeks of something far beyond mere name calling and dumb party maneuvering. It reeks of sheer heartlessness regarding the planet. It reeks of abuse. It reeks of hate.
This, then, is the gist of the BushCo attack on the planet: a hate crime. An intentional, ferocious dismantling of protections and guidelines, a view that Mother Nature is nothing but a cheap resource to be exploited, a giant oil can to be suckled, a hunk of toilet paper for Dick Cheney to -- well, let's not imagine.
Look at it this way. It's like music videos. Over and over again, endless droning shots of gyrating sweating booty-pumping faux-sexy bodies pretending to writhe in bogus orgasmic bliss, video after video and hour after hour where you watch and watch and go slowly numb and say, Jesus with a skimpy thong and a spray bottle of baby oil, how much further can they go?
How much more naked and sexist and overblown and abusive can they get before they say oh screw it and just strip down and have sex with a live chicken as 50 Cent downs a bottle of Crystal and grins maniacally?
This is like the saturation level of BushCo. Something's gotta give, you say. Surely some sort of ugly orgiastic critical mass has been reached wherein Bush and his planet-reaming policies simply cannot go any further without some sort of meltdown, some sort of massive international cosmic recoil whereby we finally see the Bush admin for what it is, quite possibly the most self-serving, egomaniacal cluster of enviro thugs in modern history.
But with the Union of Concerned Scientists report, this sentiment goes one step further -- this is not just hate for the planet, not merely a blatant right-wing revulsion for those much-loathed intangible New Age-y touchstones like earthly vibration, energy, true spiritual connection and a deep veneration and sense of profound awe for the raw divinity of nature.
This is more sinister, and more disturbing. BushCo's ugly rejection of not merely the "liberal" environmental politicking but also of the factual science of the natural world is, ultimately, a form of self-loathing.
It is a snide and self-destructive rejection of the human-nature connection, of the very real and very direct correlation between how we treat our world and how we view ourselves, between what we choose to celebrate/annihilate in nature and what we venerate/devastate in own spirits. After all, the less regard you have for one, the less you care about the other. Simple, really.
Look. We reflect the planet. The planet reflects us. And 60 out of 60 scientists agree: BushCo's time of reflecting nothing but cruel blackness and abuse needs to come to an end, right now.
Selling The War Without Lying
Monday, February 16, 2004
Last year, in his State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush appears to have been somewhat in error when he described the vast array of weapons controlled by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
With some qualifiers, Bush said Saddam had 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent and upward of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering those chemical and biological agents. He also said Saddam had several mobile biological-weapons labs, which could be moved from place to place to evade inspectors. And, for the pièce de résistance, Bush offered proof that Saddam was working on nuclear weapons.
As if that weren't enough, Bush also suggested strongly a link between Saddam and terrorist members of Al Qaeda.
It was a sobering report. Those of us listening to it had little reason to doubt its authenticity. And it became the foundation for the Bush administration's claim that Saddam was a threat to the United States of America, and it behooved us to get him before he got us.
So we went to war with Iraq and discovered in due time that Bush had used his reputation as a straight shooter to convince us of "facts" that just didn't exist.
When it became obvious that Bush was full of it, he and others in his administration switched gears. We had to conquer and occupy Iraq, they said, because Saddam was a horrible despot who had to be removed for the sake of Iraqis and all humankind.
That argument actually held water. It is hard to imagine a modern-day dictator more brutal than Saddam, though some might exist.
So the fear campaign out of the White House turned out to be just a marketing technique, a device used to sell a war that might not otherwise be tolerated by the American public. Richard Perle, a White House insider, has said as much. Bush himself has now admitted that Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, though he still uses those attacks to sell other unrelated policies.
What I'm wondering, through all this, is how Bush might have sold the war in Iraq if he had stuck with the truth. Perhaps it would have gone something like this:
"My fellow Americans, the world has a problem. Saddam Hussein runs the nation of Iraq with an iron fist, killing anyone who even mildly disagrees with him. He has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and shows no sign of letting up.
"In his prolonged war with Iran, he used chemical weapons against both the Iranians and the Kurds living in his own country. As you know, chemical weapons are outlawed by international agreement. Had he used mere bombs and napalm and land mines and rockets and artillery shells and flame throwers, we would have no problem with him. But poison gas? Give me a break!
"As you know, we fought Saddam before, a dozen years ago. We drove his troops out of Kuwait and slaughtered a goodly number of them on the road to Basra. We can handle these people. They're no match for our size, our technology and our advanced equipment.
"As you also know, Saddam concocted a plot to assassinate my father when he traveled to the Middle East as president. It didn't work, thank God, but don't think for a minute that I'm forgetting it.
"Anyway, I think it's time to take out Saddam and see if we can install a democratic government in Iraq. Right now there's only one democratic nation in that part of the world, Israel, and for some odd reason other nations are not adopting Israel's form of government. But maybe when we force Iraq into becoming a democracy, other Arab and Persian nations will follow suit.
"Okay, now here's the catch. Nobody gets nothin' for nothin', as they say, and there will be a cost to our humanitarian mission in Iraq. I'm figuring about $200 billion up front. That works out to about $1,500 per taxpayer, which is mere chump change for most of you, I'm sure.
"And -- full disclosure here -- we'll have to borrow the money, because our treasury is empty. Yeah, we've had a string of bad luck in the last couple years, and the big surplus Bill Clinton left us is gone now and we're hopelessly mired in debt. But not to worry. We can borrow the money and pay later. Because of interest, that might double your cost, so, just to be on the safe side, figure your individual tab for ridding the world of Saddam to be about $3,000.
"There's one other point I have to bring up, and that's casualties. War is hell, you know, and people die in wars. That's just the way it is. So we're going to have to sacrifice several hundred of your sons and daughters to bring Saddam down.
"Now I know for most of you, your sons and daughters will never see this war. They'll be in college or working in the family business or breaking into the legal profession or maybe even starting up a little oil business in Midland. Take it from me, there are all kinds of ways for young people to avoid going to war.
"But for those of you in a socioeconomic position where joining the military is the best financial opportunity available for your sons and daughters, well, we appreciate your sacrifice.
"Oh, dang, I almost forgot to mention the wounded. They are telling me that about one in 50 fighters over there will end up permanently damaged: loss of an arm or a leg or more, blindness, whatever -- it's war, and stuff happens. So I guess we have to factor that into the cost, including the fact that all these disabled young people will be pensioned off for the rest of their lives and will have to be treated at government expense.
"So, that's the deal, folks. We have to start banging away at that ol' Axis of Evil, and Iraq and Saddam seems like a good place to start. What do you think? Are you in, or out?"
Harley Sorensen is a longtime journalist. His column appears Mondays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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