Howard Dean on the War on Science

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Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean M.D. became a household name earlier this year when he was running for president. After dropping out of the race, Dean used the network he established to start Democracy for America, “a grassroots organization that supports socially progressive and fiscally responsible political candidates.” On July 5, Dean wrote an editorial on Bush’s war on science in The Daily Camera (Boulder, CO).

The Bush administration has declared war on science. In the Orwellian world of 21st century America, two plus two no longer equals four where public policy is concerned, and science is no exception. When a right-wing theory is contradicted by an inconvenient scientific fact, the science is not refuted; it is simply discarded or ignored.

Presidential scientific commissions have long enjoyed relative immunity from politics. Presidents of both parties have depended on impartial, rational advice from such groups for decades. Yet under the Bush administration, there has been a concerted effort, led by Karl Rove and other political ideologues based in the White House, to stack these commissions with Republican loyalists, especially those who espouse fundamentalist views on scientific issues.

Will it be long before a prominent panel of fundamentalist theologians, conservative columnists and a few token scientists take up the question of whether the theory of evolution should be banned from the nation’s classrooms? Stay tuned. In George Bush’s America, ignorance is strength.

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Oh, how I wish Howard Dean were our candidate today…

if it hasn’t been mentioned here already, this Chris Mooney article is relevant.

http://www.chriscmooney.com/blog.asp?Id=937

Mike: I thought you were going to lay off that Ann Coulter stuff. There are way too many things in your manifesto for me to tackle right now, so I’ll just make one point relevant to this particular weblog:

Mike S: The threat to teaching of evolution is real enough, but it’s obviously not being driven by the Bush administration

“driven”? perhaps not. “Ridden” may be more accurate.

Sorry, I accidentally hit “Post” instead of “Preview”. If the editor wants to remove the previous post, that would be great…

I write this week’s column as a physician.

Yes, but every issue he touches on is a hot-button political issue, not a scientific one.

The Bush administration has declared war on science.

No they haven’t.  Just because they implement some policies that some people don’t like doesn’t mean they’ve declared war on science.  On Iraq, yes.  On Terrorism, yes.  On science, no.

When a right-wing theory is contradicted by an inconvenient scientific fact, the science is not refuted; it is simply discarded or ignored.

But this never happens with left-wing theories.

Egregious examples abound. Over-the-counter morning-after contraceptive sales are banned, despite the recommendation for approval by an independent panel of the Food and Drug Administration review board.

Depends upon your definition of ‘egregious’.  The morning-after pill is an abortifacient, so of course it’s going to be politicized.  It can still be had with a prescription, right?  Is the difference between an Rx and over-the-counter really so Orwellian?

The health risks of mercury were discounted by a White House staffer who simply crossed out the word “confirmed” from a phrase describing mercury as a “confirmed public health risk.”

Well, it’s the amount that counts, right?  And it seems that the scare over mercury in fish was way overblown.  They didn’t claim that mercury itself wasn’t dangerous, they claimed that mercury levels in fish weren’t a confirmed health risk.  Now who is manipulating the truth?

A National Cancer Institute fact sheet was doctored to suggest that abortion increases breast-cancer risk, even though the American Cancer Society concluded that the best study discounts that.

I think this is a probably a good example where politics trumped a straightforward scientific conclusion.  But again, it’s abortion, so what do you expect, and I believe the offending website has been corrected.  Has it not?

Reports on the status of minority health and the importance of breast feeding are similarly watered down to appease right-wing ideologies.

I don’t know what he’s talking about here, but it’s not clear to me (a conservative) what the importance of breast feeding has to do with any right-wing ideologies.

What about global warming? After withdrawing from the Kyoto Treaty, the Bush administration distanced itself from a climate report the Environmental Protection Agency wrote, because it affirmed the potential worldwide harm of global warming, the existence of which Bush had denied. The global-warming section of the 2003 EPA report on the environment was extensively rewritten, then dropped entirely.

Yes, what about global warming?  It’s a hot-button political issue, not just a scientific one, and there are few solid scientific conclusions about it except for the fact that the average temperature seems to have risen over the past 100 years or so.  Even if global warming were a well-documented and understood phenomenon, it would still be a matter of economic and public policy in terms of deciding what to do about it.  And the Senate, under Clinton, voted 95-0 against ratifying the Kyoto treaty.  So it wasn’t just the Bush administration who was against it.  Russia was against it, too, until Putin decided he could gain some favor from Western Europeans by supporting it.

Fighting HIV? Bush’s initiative to help fund HIV efforts in Africa was trumpeted by the press, while the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control quietly removed information on the benefits of condoms and safe sex education from domestic HIV Web sites.

So what?  We’ve had information about condoms and safe sex up the wazzoo for the past 20 years - has it had any effect on HIV transmission?  Does Howard think that prostitutes in Thailand go to the CDC website to find out how to use condoms?  How is this an attack on science?  The answer: it’s not, it just goes against liberal orthodoxy on the subject of sex, HIV, and condoms.  It’s fine to disagree with the administration, but to characterize this as a war on science is preposterous.

Presidential scientific commissions have long enjoyed relative immunity from politics. Presidents of both parties have depended on impartial, rational advice from such groups for decades. Yet under the Bush administration, there has been a concerted effort, led by Karl Rove and other political ideologues based in the White House, to stack these commissions with Republican loyalists, especially those who espouse fundamentalist views on scientific issues.

Recently, a scientist and a bioethics professor were dismissed from the blue-ribbon Council on Bioethics when they disagreed with the Bush administration’s proposed ban on new stem-cell line development to cure a variety of diseases.

The bioethicist (May) was supposed to step down, and he remains as an advisor to the Council, and the scientist, Blackburn, a) didn’t show up for half the meetings, and b) is not an expert on the subjects they are now addressing (neuroscience).  She’s an expert on stem cells, and they already released their report on that issue.  This is pretty thin gruel for those looking for a concerted effort to quash dissenting views.  What about those still on the Council who disagree with the administration, like Gazzaniga?

In a similar vein and an unusual move, the nomination of public-health experts to a CDC lead paint advisory panel were rejected by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, and replaced with researchers with financial ties to the lead industry.

Don’t know what he’s talking about, he might have a legitimate gripe here.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, with 20 Nobel laureates and several former scientific advisers to Republican presidents, has issued its scathing Report on Scientific Integrity condemning these practices.

The UCS primarily supports left-wing policies.  Their report states that “Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systematically nor on so wide a front.”  So what they’re complaining about is a matter of degree, not kind. 

Is it any wonder that these outrages have been perpetrated on an unsuspecting public and an enfeebled press? Not when you consider that this is an administration that has put forth deliberately misleading proposals like the Healthy Forests Initiative, which removes barriers to clear-cutting, and the Clear Skies Initiative, which weakens existing safeguards on mercury, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants dumped into the air by power plants.

It doesn’t weaken existing standards, it is less strong than an alternative proposal. And air quality indicators are improving anyway, which means that it won’t accelerate the rate of improvement as quickly as the alternative proposal.

When the oil industry writes national energy policy and the HMOs and drug companies draft our Medicare legislation, who is looking out for truth, scientific integrity and the public interest?

Well, I’m sure Howard will ; ) Yeeaargh!

Will it be long before a prominent panel of fundamentalist theologians, conservative columnists and a few token scientists take up the question of whether the theory of evolution should be banned from the nation’s classrooms? Stay tuned. In George Bush’s America, ignorance is strength.

Yes, Howard, it will be infinitely long before that happens. The threat to teaching of evolution is real enough, but it’s obviously not being driven by the Bush administration.  And there is no plan to have a federal panel look at evolutionary curricula.  So what is Howard talking about?  And does he really mean to imply (by placing this item last) that the teaching of evolution is a more important problem than HIV, global warming, air quality, or mercury contamination?  A mixture of liberal political gripes and some legitimate complaints about administration heavy-handedness does not add up to a ‘war on science’. By all means, criticize the administration, and point out cases where they’ve mangled the science. But don’t pretend that they’ve launched a war on science.

Let the Bush-bashing commence …

“I thought you were going to lay off that Ann Coulter stuff”

Which stuff would that, be, exactly? Just because she says something or agrees with it doesn’t automatically make it wrong… (likewise for Bush)

Or do you just mean conservative political viewpoints?

“I’ll just make one point relevant to this particular weblog”

The original posting had nothing to do with evolution - it just quoted part of Dean’s screed against the administration.

If the Bush administration is making political hay out of the ID/Creationist movement (evidence for which I’d like to see), that is scientifically irresponsible. But that’s not the same thing as declaring war on science.

Mike S. Wrote:

The original posting had nothing to do with evolution

Oops, another mistake. But it is still interesting that the last paragraph of Dean’s op-ed is essentially a nonsequiter.

Mike S. Wrote:

every issue he touches on is a hot-button political issue, not a scientific one.

Maybe it’s a hot-button political issue BECAUSE it is science and the truth getting mauled, and not just the stuff of ordinary political disputes about values and opinions.

Just because they implement some policies that some people don’t like doesn’t mean they’ve declared war on science.

When they act as if facts don’t matter and act to suppress science which yeilds facts which call their policies into question, exactly what would you call it?  I do not think “war on science” is too strong.

But this never happens with left-wing theories.

And that gives the Bush administration a free pass?

The morning-after pill is an abortifacient…

(Normally I wouldn’t get into this issue here, but this is an issue of fact and not of opinion.)  NO IT IS NOT.  Pregnancy has a very well-defined medical and biological definition, and the morning-after pill acts to prevent a pregnancy (implantation), not abort one.

They didn’t claim that mercury itself wasn’t dangerous, they claimed that mercury levels in fish weren’t a confirmed health risk.

Meanwhile preventing the research from being done to quantify the risks.  The research money is subject to political vetting, and that research does not get funded.  Civilian research in general has taken a huge hit.

We’ve had information about condoms and safe sex up the wazzoo for the past 20 years - has it had any effect on HIV transmission? Does Howard think that prostitutes in Thailand go to the CDC website to find out how to use condoms? How is this an attack on science?

What you mean “we”, paleface?  School children have been the victims subjects of “abstinence only” health curricula in large sections of the country, and the Bush administration has acted to cut off funding to overseas health agencies which try to spread information about the efficacy of condoms against HIV transmission.  The people who get HIV because of this are as good as dead without medication, and the Bush administration’s paltry efforts (mostly jawboning) about getting drugs to the victims are never going to treat all of those whose disease could have been prevented in the first place and at a much smaller cost.

This is iron-clad proof that Bush & Co. put politics ahead of lives.  (For that matter, the Roman Catholic Church also lies about the matter, saying that condoms are ineffective when they have been tested as being highly effective.  The RCC could have said that the use of condoms is a sin regardless, but apparently they would rather lie about the evidence; they’d rather have people die than sin.  I do not think that lying is very Christian of either the RCC or the Bush administration, do you?)

It doesn’t weaken existing standards, it is less strong than an alternative proposal. And air quality indicators are improving anyway, which means that it won’t accelerate the rate of improvement as quickly as the alternative proposal.

We’ve got breakthrough technologies (IGCC for SOx, NOx and ash, activated-carbon scrubbing for mercury) on the front burner ready to reduce these emissions by 90%+, and the Bush administration wants to go slow.  As a member of the public, what good does this “less strong” proposal do for me?  Does it actually pass cost-benefit analysis when health and recreation costs from slower reductions are taken into account, or is it just a favor to some well-heeled campaign contributors at my expense?

Engineer-Poet Wrote:

Maybe it’s a hot-button political issue BECAUSE it is science and the truth getting mauled, and not just the stuff of ordinary political disputes about values and opinions.

Right. Because nobody gets excited about ‘ordinary’ political disputes - they only get excited when science is involved…

When they act as if facts don’t matter and act to suppress science which yeilds facts which call their policies into question, exactly what would you call it?  I do not think “war on science” is too strong.

Mostly, I call it politics. Washington does that kind of thing all the time. The reason people are getting so hysterical about it is because they don’t like Bush and/or his policies. If Al Gore was doing the same kinds of things, but in a liberal direction, you might complain about it, but you wouldn’t call it a ‘war on science’. (perhaps some right-wingers would, but that wouldn’t make them any more correct than you are)

And that gives the Bush administration a free pass?

I didn’t say they should have a free pass, I said I thought it was hyperbolic to call the situation a war on science.

Meanwhile preventing the research from being done to quantify the risks.  The research money is subject to political vetting, and that research does not get funded.  Civilian research in general has taken a huge hit.

This is the kind of myopic viewpoint that one always hears from scientists - the idea that federal research money is theirs by default, and any restrictions on it are an outrage. There is always research that doesn’t get funded. Sometimes this is a serious problem, but the federal government spends huge amounts of money on research. Just because some worthy research doesn’t get funded does not mean that the administration has declared war on science. I don’t know what you mean by saying that civilian research has taken a huge hit - the NIH just doubled its budget over 5 years. And I believe the latest budget request included small increases for most departments. Anything less than a 10% increase does not qualify as a ‘huge hit’.

I’m not going to get into a debate about condoms and HIV. I’ll just make the point that the issue is a complex one, with moral, sociological, political, scientific, and public policy facets. The simplistic idea that the U.S. taxpayer is morally obligated to teach Mexicans or Angolans how to use condoms is far fetched, to say the least. Again, just because you disagree with policy prescriptions doesn’t mean that the administration has launched a war on science.

We’ve got breakthrough technologies (IGCC for SOx, NOx and ash, activated-carbon scrubbing for mercury) on the front burner ready to reduce these emissions by 90%+, and the Bush administration wants to go slow.  As a member of the public, what good does this “less strong” proposal do for me?  Does it actually pass cost-benefit analysis when health and recreation costs from slower reductions are taken into account, or is it just a favor to some well-heeled campaign contributors at my expense?

Yet again, you disagree with their policy. I don’t have a problem with that. But since you don’t seem to know the answer to your question, then I’ll assume that there is at least some ambiguity about the situation. Which means, yet again, that ‘war on science’ is a ridiculous hyperbole.

Mike S., “war on science” may be hyperbole but you aren’t going to convince many people that it’s “ridiculous” hyperbole.

Politicians are prone to hyperbole. Howard Dean is a politician. You saw Howard Dean use hyperbole to make a point on behalf of scientists who have seen their research and funds targeted by the Bush Administration in an annoyingly partisan fashion. Wow. What a surprise.

Satisfied? I hope so. Because the rest of your screed is mostly a textbook example of how to set up strawmen and knock them down.

I lost count “Mike” but HOW MANY posts did you find necessary? Six? Two (three, if your “edit” repost is allowed) seem justified.

Whatever. In you, we see another long-winded dumb vain Bu–sh– weiner “making his voice heard” and heard and heard, etc. –from a safe and undisclosed location.

I’ve sometimes speculated that the “creationists,” in making their dishonest, false-emotional, tireless attacks, have been the whetstone for developing the techniques that we see destroying American politics, and perhaps America, today. (“Mike”, you really hate what science is, right? Because you fear it neglects to flatter you position vis-a-vie some “Supreme Being”. And it’s likely you hate what America is as well, for the same reason: it fails to flatter your self-proclaimed, and hanging-by-a-thread, superiority over your “lessers” in society.)

Whoa, there, Darwinfinch! You may have blown a gasket just then.

I was hoping to see Mike confronted with cold hard facts, unflavored with venom and calumny. It’s much more fun to see “oops!” “Oh, I guess I didn’t notice that” or “I can’t really defend that after all” than “Yeah? well so’s your mother!”

I concluded that the gone-but-not- forgotten Jerry Don Bauer was unbalanced when he accused people he disagreed with of “hating [irrelevant groups]”.

Besides, I think the Limbaugh and Coulter types have a copyright on that “hating America” shtick.

A technical point: The op-ed by Howard Dean is not an editorial – editorials express the insititutional view of the newspaper. Even if our sister paper the Camera has taken a position on Bush’s science policy, it might or might not be the same as Dean’s. Newspapers publish a broad range of op-eds, often in oppostion to editorial policies.

Second, it is possible but unlikely that Dean wrote this “in the Camera.” He says “I write this week’s column” but he is not a regular columnist for the Camera, or, as far as I know, for anywhere else except maybe his own Web site. I think he just writes a once-a-week op-ed and makes it available to newspapers, and every now and again one of them gets published somewhere. We get scads of those at the Rocky Mountain News.

I wrote about the abortion/breast cancer study from Fred Hutchinson in Seattle when it came out, and it showed a very strong link but only for a particular subset of women, those under 18 who abort a first pregnancy after 10 weeks. The message for them is not “don’t have an abortion,”, it is “if you’re going to have an abortion eventually, have it sooner than that.” It’s political pressure from pro-choice advocates that has silenced that message.

GWW Wrote:

Politicians are prone to hyperbole.  Howard Dean is a politician.  You saw Howard Dean use hyperbole to make a point on behalf of scientists who have seen their research and funds targeted by the Bush Administration in an annoyingly partisan fashion.  Wow.  What a surprise.

I thought Dean’s point was that the Bush administration is systematically distorting, supressing, and ignoring scientific findings in the process of developing and implementing policy. I disagree, and pointed out that aside from a couple of examples, Dean’s real objections were based upon a disagreement over policy, not on a distortion of the science.

Satisfied?  I hope so.  Because the rest of your screed is mostly a textbook example of how to set up strawmen and knock them down.

Actually, Dean’s piece is full of straw men, which he then uses as a basis to claim that the Bush administration is at war with science.

darwinfinch Wrote:

I lost count “Mike” but HOW MANY posts did you find necessary?  Six?    Two (three, if your “edit” repost is allowed) seem justified.

First of all, what’s the deal with putting my name in scare quotes? Should I call you “darwinfinch”? ( Because he’s not really a darwinfinch, he just calls himself one to impress the ladies… )

Yes, I plead guilty to being sloppy. If I’d been careful, I would have only needed one post to reply to Russell’s post. I apologize for making you read two extra posts.

Whatever.  In you, we see another long-winded dumb vain Bu—sh— weiner “making his voice heard” and heard and heard, etc. —from a safe and undisclosed location.

You, on the other hand, are out there in a dangerous, and disclosed, position…

I’ve sometimes speculated that the “creationists,” in making their dishonest, false-emotional, tireless attacks, have been the whetstone for developing the techniques that we see destroying American politics, and perhaps America, today.

Wow. Who knew that I was destroying America? Behold the power of the internet! (And nothing I said indicated I was a creationist, so why did you make that assumption?)    

(“Mike”, you really hate what science is, right?  Because you fear it neglects to flatter you position vis-a-vie some “Supreme Being”.  And it’s likely you hate what America is as well, for the same reason: it fails to flatter your self-proclaimed, and hanging-by-a-thread, superiority over your “lessers” in society.)

Um, no, I don’t hate science. Nor do I hate America. I dislike it when people misuse science, which includes when people (including scientists) use the cover of the impartiality of science to support their particular policy. And it irritates me when people wail about the Bush administration being anti-science when there’s very little evidence to support such a claim (that they’re more anti-science than any other administration.)

“it irritates me when people wail about the Bush administration being anti-science when there’s very little evidence to support such a claim (that they’re more anti-science than any other administration.)”

Perhaps Mike, if you’d care to point out where, e.g., Clinton used purely political litmus tests to determine which scientists to appoint to particular positions, or if you’d care to point out anything remotely resembling the report found here

http://www.ucsusa.org/global_enviro[…]?pageID=1449

directed towards any previous Republican Administrations, there would be more sympathy for your tirades (not much more, but maybe a little more).

Good luck! It shouldn’t take you long in your highly agitated, irritated state to respond.

Mike might also want to explain why the UCS report resonates so closely with the account of that left-wing radical, Paul O’Neil. In Ron Suskind’s “The Price of Loyalty”, O’Neil marvels that whenever there’s less than 100.000% unanimity on any scientific issue, the Bush administration policy was to give the benefit of the “doubt” to their boosters, because “the base wants it, and who the hell knows anyway?”

I have to say I am mightily disappointed in this thread. I look forward to coming here and reading about science and the real war against it from creationists and their ilk. I greatly admire a lot of you and your dedication. But this conversation is a sad reminder that even scientists are prone to emotional diatribes when discussing politics.

I thought that Mike S. came in here and calmly made some salient points. I haven’t seen much in rebuttal except invective. Is he right? I don’t know, but the arguments against him here sure haven’t done anything to convince me. And this is coming from someone who despises Bush and his cronies.

Suskind doesn’t like Bush and has written many articles attacking him. O’Neil even backed off some of the claims in his own book after it came out. And he was the Treasury secretary. And like I said, the UCS has a liberal political agenda. That doesn’t mean none of their charges have merit, but it does mean that they are not an impartial source to judge claims of political interference.

Well, I think it is time to close this thread, since it’s obviously not about evolution and only marginally about science in general. I think I’ve made my point. We’ve gone from a ‘war on science’ and ‘Mike S. is helping to destroy America’ to ‘give us evidence that previous administrations used political considerations in dealing with scientific issues’. The originial charge was that the Bush administration was perpetrating a war on science. I rebutted that claim, saying that the evidence for such a charge was lacking in Dean’s Op-Ed. Now I’m supposed to waste my time hunting down past instances of politics interfering with science.

Note the parallels with the usual discussions on this blog:

[Dean/the Creationist] says [Bush is perpetrating a war on science/evolution is false].

[I/the evolutionist] says “that’s a mischaracterization of the [political process/science]”.

[Dean defenders/the Creationist] says, “well, why don’t you prove to me that [Bush isn’t perpetrating a war on science/evolution is true]”

You know, the usual trick of switching the burden of proof from the person making the original charge to the person defending against it.

I thought that Mike S. came in here and calmly made some salient points.

I guess it’s all a matter of perception. What you perceived as “calmly making salient points”, I perceived as an inarticulate screed. (Yeeeaaargghh!)

What I perceived as a reasonable response (“Engineer-poet’s”) you perceived as invective.

Don’t exactly know why.

Perhaps if these “salient points” were summarized more concisely it would stimulate a less “disappointing thread”.

Mike S, nice try.

The originial charge was that the Bush administration was perpetrating a war on science. I rebutted that claim, saying that the evidence for such a charge was lacking in Dean’s Op-Ed. Now I’m supposed to waste my time hunting down past instances of politics interfering with science.

Mike, from the very beginning of this Administration’s reign I have read reports from scientists describing this Administration’s attitude towards science and scientists. Did I keep track of everything? No. Sorry about that.

As I said, Dean may have been engaging in hyperbole, but I have no reason to believe that he is making a baseless charge. On the contrary, based on a lot of the other unbelievable things Bush and his buddies have done, why would I expect the Bush Administration to grant scientists a pass? You make it sound as if Bush and Co. are god’s gift to rational nuanced discourse about the environment and medicine and women’s health and Dean’s charges have come completely out of the blue. Ridiculous.

So, yes, Mike S: the burden is on you to show that Howard Dean’s Op-Ed is completely full of shit. I realize that the UCS is a “liberal” group (good for them). However, I don’t think the scientists comprising the group are a pack of liars motivated purely by politics. If you expect me to dismiss their findings on that basis, then prove to me that they are liars who would do and say *anything* to get Bush out of office.

I see smoke. I think there’s a fire. You see smoke. You think “these people just hate Bush.” Get real.

The connections between political ideology and science are not straightforward. May libertarians are hyper-selectionists, for example, because they have a fervent belief in self-organizing markets—they like Stuart Kauffman a lot. This sort of thing is ultimately irrelevant to deciding what’s true or false; but it is a mighty common rhetorical move to associate some theoretical or policy stance with evolution as if objections to your favorite hobby horse (the obvious awfulness of the minimum wage, the grandure of free trade, the apocalyptic version of global warming, etc.) were as baseless as the usual Creationist or ID blather. I’ve done it myself, but I shouldn’t.

And of course there’s this notorious Bush-bashing left-wing ideologue:

The behavior of the White House on these issues is part of a pattern that has led Russell Train, the EPA administrator under Presidents Nixon and Ford, to observe, “How radically we have moved away from regulation based on independent findings and professional analysis of scientific, health and economic data by the responsible agency to regulation controlled by the White House and driven primarily by political considerations.”

Here’s a fact in support of Dean’s op-ed: the conduct of the Administration with regard to setting a public health goal for drinking water in perchlorate.

Healthy people can tolerate pretty high doses of perchlorate without any adverse impact. People with thyroid problems (or are otherwise iodide deficient) cannot. Since most people in this country want federal guidelines for drinking water that won’t make anyone sick, you’d think that EPA would be able to get through the regulatory process quickly.

But a low PHG for perchlorate will cost DoD billions of dollars, as it is forced to pay for perchlorate removal from groundwater. Since DoD would rather spend the money on things that go bang, the Administration imposed a gag order on EPA, and set up a national review panel on perchlorate that (a) is moving very slowly and (b) has on the panel scientists with tight ties to major polluters.

[declaration of bias: i am an attorney representing a municipality which has sued the DOD based on perchlorate contamination. but the description of the administration conduct in this post is accurate.]

Francis

But a low PHG for perchlorate will cost DoD billions of dollars, as it is forced to pay for perchlorate removal from groundwater. Since DoD would rather spend the money on things that go bang,

Are you saying that only the DoD would have to spend billions on this new removal target? So, there are currently no small municipalities that would also need to find the extra money somehow to buy new equipment to conform to this new mandate?

This sounds like the same kind of thing that happened with the arsenic-in-drinking-water bruhaha. Remember arsenic? One of Bush’s first moves as president was to try to remove the new, tougher arsenic regulations that Clinton had approved. His argument was that this new mandate could have bankrupted some municipalities, all in the service of removing a miniscule threat to our health. (He eventually caved in, and the new mandates on municipalities kick in in 2006, and probably won’t save any lives on balance.)

The Democrats, of course, characterized this as “Bush wants to poison your children!” The truth was, ah, somewhat more ambiguous than that.

I haven’t been following the overall “Bush is packing advisory boards with anti-science people” argument much, but I really do suspect that the truth is, ah, more ambiguous than that.

Mike S. Wrote:

Meanwhile preventing the research from being done to quantify the risks. The research money is subject to political vetting, and that research does not get funded. Civilian research in general has taken a huge hit.

This is the kind of myopic viewpoint that one always hears from scientists - the idea that federal research money is theirs by default, and any restrictions on it are an outrage. There is always research that doesn’t get funded. Sometimes this is a serious problem, but the federal government spends huge amounts of money on research. Just because some worthy research doesn’t get funded does not mean that the administration has declared war on science.

Nice strawman and ad-hominems; “myopic viewpoint”, etc.  Perhaps it did not occur to you that making policy on any basis other than dogma/politics requires information, and research on topics pertinent to issues of policy should be - would be - a top priority of any administration which had a commitment to public welfare and basic truth.

The policy from the head of this administration (whose leader does not read newspapers, or anything else that is not filtered through his staff of litmus-testers) appears to be “ignorance is strength”.

The Democrats, of course, characterized this as “Bush wants to poison your children!”

Who are these “Democrats”, Emma? Please show me where that statement was made.

The truth was probably also “ah, more ambiguous” than was reported about the USDA’s desire to characterize frozen french fries as a “fresh vegetable”.

And the truth was probably also “ah, more ambiguous” than was reported about the Administration’s desire to relax salmonella testing standards for beef in public schools.

And do you remember how much effort the Bush administration put into educating the public about the safety of irradiated beef? Compare what Americans know about the safety of irradiated beef to what Americans know about John Kerry being a “flip flopper” or about Saddam’s involvement in the planning for 9/11. Then ask yourself about the Bush Admin’s priorities with respect to science.

Again, I don’t see much about Bush’s poor record on science matters that is, ah, very ambiguous at all.

“whose leader does not read newspapers”

You mean like the New York Times? Yes, there’s never any factual errors there, and there certainly isn’t a liberal bias, either…(although they have a good science section)

GWW Wrote:

Nice strawman and ad-hominems; “myopic viewpoint”, etc.  Perhaps it did not occur to you that making policy on any basis other than dogma/politics requires information

Policy almost always has to be made on incomplete information. And the federal government only has so many dollars to spend. Not to mention that Congress is responsible for setting the budget. Whether, and the extent to which, the federal government should be responsible for public health issues (for example) is a political decision, not a scientific one. Politicians are supposed to make political decisions - that’s their job. Just because you don’t agree with a politician’s decision doesn’t mean that he is committing a ‘war on science’. Read Jim Harrison’s post.

Congress and the media, not to mention state and local governments, routinely abuse science in various ways. But you’re not going around saying that they are committing a war on science. Again, I’m not saying the Bush administration hasn’t done anything improper. I am saying that the main reason you’re calling it a ‘war’ is because you either don’t like him personally or you don’t like his policies in general, or both. Do you really expect me to believe that if Kerry is elected and is overly ideological in his science policy & appointments that you’ll be just as outraged? Or that we’ll have stories in the media complaining about it? Please.

And dogma is not always a bad thing. The word has a bad rap nowadays, but it can be just another word for principle.

As I said, Dean may have been engaging in hyperbole, but I have no reason to believe that he is making a baseless charge.  On the contrary, based on a lot of the other unbelievable things Bush and his buddies have done, why would I expect the Bush Administration to grant scientists a pass?  You make it sound as if Bush and Co. are god’s gift to rational nuanced discourse about the environment and medicine and women’s health and Dean’s charges have come completely out of the blue.  Ridiculous.

So, yes, Mike S: the burden is on you to show that Howard Dean’s Op-Ed is completely full of shit.

I didn’t say his charges were all baseless, just some of them were (like the Bioethics Council complaint). And defending the administration against the charge that they are perpetrating a war on science is not equivalent to ‘making it osund like they are God’s gift to rational nuanced discourse’. And the burden is not on me to show that his Op-Ed is completely full of shit. It is to show that his charges don’t add up to a war on science.

Russell Wrote:

I guess it’s all a matter of perception. What you perceived as “calmly making salient points”, I perceived as an inarticulate screed. (Yeeeaaargghh!)

Well, it may have been inarticulate, but it wasn’t really a screed. And the yeargh thing was an attempt to poke fun at Howard.

Ms. EmmaPeel,

how many people are you willing to kill each year as a result of drinking tap water? what is your appropriate regulatory standard? EPA uses (more or less) one death per million people per 70-year lifespan. In a country of 280 million people, that starts to add up, given the number of regulated contaminants.

and since the vast majority of perchlorate is (and was) used for military purposes, the number of small communities that would need to clean perchlorate out of their groundwater without DOD assistance would be quite small (if a federal standard were set).

but since states are starting to set perchlorate standards in lieu of the feds doing so, small communities NOW find themselves needing to clean up perchlorate contamination without DoD / military contractor help.

In sum, the delay in setting an enforceable perchlorate standard works to the benefit of DOD and military contractors (oddly enough, large contributors to Republican campaign coffers) at the expense of usually small and poor communities located near military bases.

and that is an anti-science approach.

Francis

Mike S.

Do you really expect me to believe that if Kerry is elected and is overly ideological in his science policy & appointments that you’ll be just as outraged?

Mike – just fyi. I’m not Howard Dean. Dean may be outraged about Bush’s apparent anti-science positions. I’m just disappointed. And I’d be just as disappointed in John Kerry. Stick around and we’ll see what happens, ‘kay?

And the burden is not on me to show that his Op-Ed is completely full of shit. It is to show that his charges don’t add up to a war on science.

Which gets me back to my original point. It’s called hyperbole, Mike. Dean was making a very valid and important point with hyperbole and wow! you caught him red-handed. Now, see the discussion earlier this week in Congress re: the destruction of society by married gay people. I’m sure I can find you all over the web flipping out on Santorum and all the other creeps who were rambling on about box turtles and the like.

If you’re goal is to tone down political rhetoric, you’ve got a hard road ahead. I’d focus on the truly bogus stuff, like the aforementioned marriage issues. As has been pointed out to you several times, the argument that Bush is not a friend to science has some decent legs, legs good enough to walk to the November election and trample the Chimp to the ground. Ooops! Sorry to reveal my “bias.”

I could lecture you about the emptiness of your complaints with respect to the “liberal media” but at this late date, anyone who holds such opinions is probably too far gone to reach. Good luck to you.

It is to show that his charges don’t add up to a war on science.

Oh, well, heck! Is that all? I really didn’t think Ashcroft had been consulted as to whether captured researchers were going to be held as enemy combatants or anything like that. I thought you were defending the notion that this administration has not shown an unprecedented lack of respect for science when it’s politically inconvenient.

In my experience scientists aren’t very eager to get involved in partisan politics. The fact that so many of them are raising their voices against Bush this go around is a significant departure from tradition. There wouldn’t be so many angry voices or so much anger absent a very good reason to get mad.

Mike S. Wrote:

Do you really expect me to believe that if Kerry is elected and is overly ideological in his science policy & appointments that you’ll be just as outraged?

(Since this was apparently directed to me, despite the mis-attribution…)

Yes, I do.  (not that you would have had any reason to know this until now, but…) I expect you to believe it because I ripped on Clinton for his own subordination of facts to orthodoxy, the California Air Resources Board for its impossible demands for ZEVs (instead of hybrids) which guaranteed failure to achieve their objectives, and more.  I am a equal-opportunity critic.

I was willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt in 2000.  I do give Bush the benefit of the doubt on the entire Iraq affair, but his domestic policies leave no doubt.

Larry Lord Wrote:

(EmmaPeel:) The Democrats, of course, characterized this as “Bush wants to poison your children!”

Who are these “Democrats”, Emma? Please show me where that statement was made.

(sigh) do I really have to document this claim? OK, fine. Do a google of “Bush arsenic water” and you’ll find a bunch of references. Here’s part of a critical article by Steven Milloy from the Institute for Justice:

When last we left the controversy over the Bush administration’s spring 2001 revision of the standards for arsenic in drinking water, the Democratic National Committee was running television commercials featuring a little girl asking, “May I please have some more arsenic in my water, mommy?”

I remember that ad. And click here for a reference to it from CNN.

More than two years later, the Democrats are still trying to convince us that President Bush tried to poison America by toughening the regulatory standards for arsenic in drinking water.

Amid new arm-waving over the administration’s plan to reduce mercury emissions from power plants, Democrat presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Lieberman recently said, “First arsenic, then mercury, what poison will the Bush administration seek to permit into our environment next?”

We can expect many more such comments during the 2004 campaign season from Democrats as they rant and rave about the president’s record on the environment. Their fearmongering about arsenic, however, will lack a factual basis.

A new study reports no increased rates of cancer in the two largest U.S. populations consuming drinking water containing relatively high levels of arsenic.

University of California-Berkeley researchers examined the populations of six counties in California and western Nevada. These residents consumed drinking water with arsenic levels near 100 micrograms per liter (μg/l) – a level that is about twice the pre-Bush standard for arsenic in drinking water (50 μg/l) and about 10 times the revised standard (10μg/l).

“Overall, no clear association was identified between bladder cancer risk and the exposures found in our study,” reported the researchers. There was no association between arsenic in drinking water and bladder cancer even among study subjects with 40 years of exposure to the relatively high levels of arsenic.

And, no, the study was not paid for by the “arsenic industry.”

First, arsenic occurs naturally in drinking water. Next, the study was funded by the federal government and conducted by Cal-Berkeley’s Allan H. Smith – a strong proponent of more stringent arsenic regulations.

It sounds like he’s referring to this study: Steinmaus C, Yuan Y, Bates MN, Smith AH. Case-control study of bladder cancer and drinking water arsenic in Western United States. Am J Epidemiol 2003 Dec 15; 158(12): 1193-1201. If you can show me where this study has been debunked, I’d be glad to see it. (BTW, UC-Berkeley has an ongoing arsenic research program.)

Meanwhile, Milloy goes on to describe how the EPA arrived at the 10ug/l standard in the first place: By linearly extrapolating down from a study of Taiwanese people who were exposed to 640ug/l. (If I read that right.) But the UC-Berkeley study shows that such a simple extrapolation doesn’t hold up for even 100ug/l, let alone 50 or 10.

I can only assume the salmonella, french fries, irradiated beef, and maybe even the perchlorate scares are being similarly hyped for partisan purposes (or innocently hyped because they fit the hyper’s worldview). Just like when I hear someone earnestly use one debunked creationist argument with me, I pretty much know what to expect from them on related issues.

(But like I say, I haven’t researched these issues, so I’m open to being surprised.)

fdl Wrote:

how many people are you willing to kill each year as a result of drinking tap water?

I dunno. How many people are you willing to kill each year by not requiring all pedestrians to wear helmets? And don’t get me started on the evils of dihydrogen monoxide! :-)

OK, I’ll be serious now…

and since the vast majority of perchlorate is (and was) used for military purposes, the number of small communities that would need to clean perchlorate out of their groundwater without DOD assistance would be quite small (if a federal standard were set).

but since states are starting to set perchlorate standards in lieu of the feds doing so, small communities NOW find themselves needing to clean up perchlorate contamination without DoD / military contractor help.

Thanks, I didn’t know that. I promise to look into it.

Emma

You said, in quotes, “Bush wants to poison your children!”

Where have multiple Democrats said that? You accused Democrats of alleging that Bush wants to poison the children of American citizens. Where did a Democrat say that?

The statements by Dems in the articles you cited seem to me to be technically supportable. So please, try again. Or retract your accusation.

Also, let’s be clear about the french fries cuz it goes right to the heart of another favorite rant of conservatives: activist judges. A Judge recently upheld the USDA’s finding that batter coated frozen french fries are “fresh vegetables.” Read the sentence again. You want judicial activism? You got it. I’m sure the Republicans will be foaming at the mouth over this one. Right? Or will they will be strangely quiet because, oh, I don’t know, frozen fries are cheaper to serve than fresh vegetables …?

“Mike,” I just wish I could see in your posts the slightest spark of either humor or hone…

…oh, never mind.

I’ll just roll past future posts of yours, knowing there is nothing hon…

…there I go again!

Enough.

Where have multiple Democrats said that? You accused Democrats of alleging that Bush wants to poison the children of American citizens. Where did a Democrat say that?

The statements by Dems in the articles you cited seem to me to be technically supportable. So please, try again. Or retract your accusation.

I admit, “Bush wants to poison your children” was merely a paraphrase. However, if you look at my #5255 again you’ll see I gave two references to a DNC ad featuring a little girl - IOW, a child - being shown about to drink arsenic-laced water. Presumably she’s 1) a child of an American citizen, and I’m certain that 2)the Democratic National, um, Committee, consists of multiple Democrats.

But you’re right: To be more accurate, I should have said “The Democrats, of course, characterized this as ‘Bush doesn’t care that your children will be poisoned!’”

BTW, here’s an article from the Environmental News Network that confirms the Lieberman quote:

A third contender, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., noted the administration once had considered rolling back arsenic rules for drinking water, though it eventually did not. “First arsenic, then mercury … what poison will the Bush administration seek to permit into our environment next?” he asked.

Anyway, what did you think of the UC-Berkeley study I cited in #5255? Can you shoot it down? Does it or doesn’t it show that there is negligible risk to drinking water with 50ug/l of arsenic in it?

Ms Peel: I’m not an expert on this stuff, but from what I’ve read, I think you’re about right on the arsenic story.

Unfortunately, I think it’s harder to generalize from arsenic to mercury to irradiated beef to salmonella than it is to pre-conclude that anything you read from the Institute of Creation “Research” is going to be nonsense.

A close relative of mine came very very close to death as a result of a tainted taco from a prominent fast food source that shall remain nameless. There was no lawsuit or anything, so I’m not defending litigiousness per se, but I don’t see salmonella in the same light as 10 ppm arsenic.

Russell Wrote:

Ms Peel: I’m not an expert on this stuff, but from what I’ve read, I think you’re about right on the arsenic story.

Thanks, I’m glad someone admitted it! :-)

Unfortunately, I think it’s harder to generalize from arsenic to mercury to irradiated beef to salmonella than it is to pre-conclude that anything you read from the Institute of Creation “Research” is going to be nonsense.

Well, I did a little research into these issues, and I think the left has somewhat of a point re: mercury, less of a point re: Salmonella, and they’re downright as bad as creationists on the issue of irradiation.

First, mercury:

In the waning days of the Clinton administration, the EPA issued new rules that for the first time would regulate mercury emissions from power plants. It would force every plant to reduce mercury emissions by up to 90% by 2008. The Bush administration proposed less-stringent standards, which would cut overall emissions by as much as 70% by 2018, and allow individual plants to trade pollution credits.

The electric utilities came out with a study purporting to show that the Bush proposal would actually eliminate more emissions than the Democrats’ proposal over time! That smells fishy to me. But it is true that market-based incentives are usually the most efficient way to produce a result over time, with the fewest unintended consequences. I do trust them when they say the Bush proposal would save the industry (and therefore ratepayers) $8 billion/year. I say that’s a legitimate consideration. Every solution has some cost, and searching for the least expensive solution to a problem is not a bad thing.

Ironically, the highly agenda-driven redefeatbush.com had the clearest explanation of why enviros object to the trading of pollution credits for mercury:

For some pollutants, setting a cap on total emissions, while letting polluters buy and sell emission rights, is a cost-efficient way to reduce pollution. The cap-and-trade system for sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, has been a big success. But the science clearly shows that cap-and-trade is inappropriate for mercury.

Sulfur dioxide is light, and travels long distances: power plants in the Midwest can cause acid rain in Maine. So a cap on total national emissions makes sense. Mercury is heavy: much of it precipitates to the ground near the source. As a result, coal-fired power plants in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan create “hot spots” chemical Chernobyls where the risks of mercury poisoning are severe. Under a cap-and-trade system, these plants are likely to purchase pollution rights rather than cut emissions. In other words, the administration proposal would perpetuate mercury pollution where it does the most harm.

I’m amazed that he admits that pollution credits - a radical free-market solution - has worked for sulfur dioxide! His argument that this wouldn’t work for mercury emissions sounded reasonable, until I came across this study from 2002 which makes me think that pollution credits should work just fine for mercury:

Mercury in California rainwater traced to industrial emissions in Asia

Industrial emissions in Asia are a major source of mercury in rainwater that falls along the California coast, according to a new study by researchers at [UC-Santa Cruz].

Interestingly, it is not just the mercury itself but a whole cocktail of atmospheric pollutants that contribute to the deposition of mercury in rainfall. Elemental mercury behaves as a gas in the atmosphere and is not washed out in rain until it has been oxidized into a charged ionic form that can be captured by water droplets, said Douglas Steding, the paper’s lead author.

Ozone, a major component of urban and industrial smog, plays a key role in this oxidation process, said Steding.

“There is a local influence of urban smog on the mercury oxidation rate. We see a background signal of mercury blowing off the Pacific, then a local enrichment that’s probably due to urban smog,” he said. “If we want to reduce mercury deposition, it’s not enough to shut down local emissions of mercury, because other pollutants influence how much of the mercury in the atmosphere ends up in rainwater.”

The Bush administration, being conservative, is sensitive to the fact that there are many competing values & costs in a free society that play themselves out as competing incentives in the marketplace over time. They’re making a judgement call on what’s the best real-world approach. This was different from Clinton’s last-minute decision to simply declare a blanket near-zero tolerance and declare victory.

Anyway, how did the left characterize this proposal?:

“This looks like an early Christmas for industry,” said Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project. “President Bush’s EPA is today proposing to weaken limits for mercury, a potent poison, from coal burning. It presents the appearance, if not the reality, of allowing kids and the unborn to be poisoned in exchange for campaign contributions.

The National Resource Defense Council says:

“This latest decision is part of a pattern where faced with a choice of protecting kids, protecting the public, or protecting polluters, they choose to protect polluters.”

and also:

The proposal, an early Christmas gift to the Bush administration’s friends in the energy industry, speaks volumes about the administration’s unspoken policy toward America’s children.

My judgement: I agree with the Bush administration’s approach to how the mercury regs are structured, but I don’t know if the specific amounts are reasonable or if they’re too lenient on the polluters. And this is not an example of Bush ignoring the science.

I didn’t mean, by the way, to imply that all the items in my list had equal validity. The point, as you acknowledge, is that the validity of each is hard to assess just from their being bunched by some individuals, causes, or political affinities.

(I agree with you also, for instance, about the bogosity of the irradiated food issue).

This is different from the various arguments about evolution maintained by creationists (of all descriptions).

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I’m glad EmmaPeel was willing to do more work than I was - nice job!

Here’s another piece of evidence that global warming is not as simple as it’s made out, and that the Kyoto protocols are too strong in that a) we know they will have significant negative effects on the economy, and b) we don’t know what their ultimate effects on the climate will be.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/mai[…]newstop.html

(registration required, I believe)

I will add that one thing that is bothersome about the Bush administration, and which fits more comfortably with the ‘war on science’ meme, is the intrusion of political considerations into advisory board appointments (and I don’t count the Bioethics Council situation as an example of this). But there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that this is a systematic problem, and as I said above some cases of heavyhandedness by the administration don’t add up to a war. There’s also the possibility that a couple of staffers at HHS were responsible for many of the innappropriate political querying of potential nominees, and these people are no longer at HHS (I don’t have the link right now where I saw this claim made).

Mike S: Here’s another piece of evidence that global warming is not as simple as it’s made out…

Anyone who thinks global warming is “simple” hasn’t done much reading about it.

Anyone who thinks we don’t need to worry about it hasn’t done much thinking about it.

Emma wrote:

Bush’s move on salmonella in lunch meat sounds just as reasonable as the others, where reasonable people can disagree, and the left’s characterization of as him being anti-child and anti-science is just as phony as …

Yawn. It’s so nice to see people like you defending George Bush. I mean, it’s not like George Bush has a lot of money to pay people to help defend him. And there’s no TV network that’s devoted almost entirely to praising Bush and his policies to high heaven.

So I really appreciate all your “insights,” Emma.

Can you tell me why the No Child Left Behind act is the greatest thing to happen to public education since the re-definition of french fries as “fresh vegetables”, Emma?

George Bush = anti-science, anti-child, anti-family, and anti-atheist. Nothing you have said changes my opinion of George Bush. He was and is the worst president this country has ever had.

“George Bush = anti-science, anti-child, anti-family, and anti-atheist.  Nothing you have said changes my opinion of George Bush.  He was and is the worst president this country has ever had.”

You forgot anti-science, GWW!

The point isn’t to change your mind about him, it’s to suggest that your ( I use the term loosely, since you didn’t write the Op-Ed or post it to PT ) rhetorical charges have some basis in fact. Nobody said you had to agree with Bush’s policies, or like him personally. We were just saying that you can’t say he’s launched a war on science when he hasn’t.

— “Anyone who thinks global warming is “simple” hasn’t done much reading about it.”

Well, guess what - most policy makers haven’t, and a large number of environmental activists haven’t, either.

“Anyone who thinks we don’t need to worry about it hasn’t done much thinking about it.”

Well, there’s a lot of ambiguity in that word, ‘worry’. And there is a huge chasm between worrying about it and doing anything politically about it. I’d prefer that the government not go about instituting huge regulatory schemes in an attempt to affect something as complex, large in scope, and poorly understood as global climate.

Mike S.

We were just saying that you can’t say he’s launched a war on science when he hasn’t.

I never said it. Howard Dean said it. And guess what, Mike: Howard Dean can say whatever he wants. I’m not sure he cares much what you or Emma think about his rhetorical skills.

I’d prefer that the government not go about instituting huge regulatory schemes in an attempt to affect something as complex, large in scope, and poorly understood as global climate.

I see you’re one of those small government libertarian types. That’s so cute! Hopefully when it gets a few degrees warmer, you’ll dry up and blow away. I’m not sure what’s so “huge” about requiring industrial manufactures and automobile makers to adhere to laws relating to emissions, but I’m sure you’ll be happy to explain to us how the Framers would be opposed.

You Mike and Emma,

Here’s another “liberal” spouting off about Bushie’s science suckiness:

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The head of the Environmental Protection Agency for two Republican presidents criticized President Bush’s record on Monday, calling it a “polluter protection” policy.

Russell E. Train, who headed the EPA from September 1973 to January 1977 - part of the Nixon and Ford administrations - said Bush’s record on the environment was so dismal that he would cast his vote for Democrat John Kerry.

“It’s almost as if the motto of the administration in power today in Washington is not environmental protection, but polluter protection,” Train said. “I find this deeply disturbing.”

In 1988, Train was co-chairman of Conservationists for Bush, an organization that backed the candidacy of George W. Bush’s father.

By the way, I really appreciate you guys bringing this issue back to my attention. Sometimes I get too focused on the Iraq debacle and forget how crappy a prez Bush Jr. would be even if he wasn’t obsessing over denying equal rights to gays or coming up with bogus evidence to help us “decide” which Muslim country to invade next. I’ll be sure to keep you two informed as to the latest developments regarding Bushie’s “War on Science”.

Mike S: Well, guess what - most policy makers haven’t [read enough about global warming], and a large number of environmental activists haven’t, either.

That’s distressing. How did you find that out? Is someone who thinks that government needs to take an active role, by definition, someone who hasn’t read enough?

Just curious.

Is someone who thinks that government needs to take an active role, by definition, someone who hasn’t read enough?

Hasn’t read enough Tech Central Station, maybe.

GWW, you’re a little late on the Train reference - Russell posted it at #5155 (By the way, I’ve never heard of Train and don’t know what his political views are. But serving as a) the head of the EPA and b) in the Nixon and Ford administrations don’t automatically make him a conservative - in fact they argue that he’s more liberal. Several of Bush’s father’s appointees have criticized his administration, too, but that doesn’t automatically mean they are correct.)

And you’re more than a little disingenuous claiming that you never said Bush was perpetrating a war on science. First of all, the argument was over whether Dean was correct or not, and second of all, you’ve essentially been defending Dean’s point, even if you say ‘overall suckiness’ (which I kind of like, by the way - it has a nice ring to it ; ) ) intead of ‘war on science’.

I’d love to sit here and debate political philosophy with you guys, but as GWW already pointed out, nobody is going to change anyone’s mind on that score in this venue, so I think I’ll save my breath.

I didn’t ‘find out’ that a large number of environmental activists don’t read much about global warming (by what, doing a survey? interviewing them?), it’s an observation based on the fact that a) they make many ridiculous claims about it and other environmental issues and b) they have an ideology that says that nature is good, most human activities that affect the environment are bad, government regulation is the best way to take care of the environment, corporations are evil, and the Bush administration doesn’t care about the environment. Much like Creationists, anything that supports that ideology they accept, and anything that contradicts it they ignore or attack. It’s a simple fact that we think global temperatures are rising, but there’s a lot of uncertainty about a) how much/fast, b) how this compares to historical temperature fluctuations, and most importantly c) how much the changes are due to human activities. I don’t know whether the article I linked to is correct or not in its suggestion that part of the rise in temperatures is due to changes in the sun’s activity. But it certainly seems plausible, and we still don’t understand the sun’s dynamics very well, nor how those dynamics affect the earth’s climate. Let’s just suppose that half the warming over the last 200 years is due to greenhouse gases and half is due to the sun. It would require major, major money and changes in the economies of the developed world to cut our greenhouse gas emissions in half. (And this doesn’t account for developing countries like Brazil, China, or India.) Does anybody know whether a 25% reduction in the rate of warming is going to make any difference over the next 100 or 200 years? I don’t, and I’m not in favor of radically changing our economy in order to try and find out. Nobody even knows what the effects of global warming will be. We know it will change things, but if those changes happen slowly enough we’ll be able to adapt to them as they happen. The only reason people call for drastic actions now is because of their ideology. And less than drastic actions are not going to have a major effect one way or the other, so implementing them or not is not the life-and-death decision people make it out to be.

Geez, Mike. You really do have to wean yourself off of Rush & co.

It’s these sweeping generalizations about “they” and “their” [purely ideological, of course] motivations that make you sound like a ditto-head.

The environmental activists I know are plenty well-read, believe me. If you want any credibility, you’re going to have to (1) get specific: who are these idealogs and specifically what “ridiculous claims” are you referring to? and (2) if you can answer the “who” and “what” of part (1), do they represent the bulk, or the most important, of environmental activists’ issues?

Just to focus things a little bit more finely than your cartoon view of environmentalists, have you read, say, the recent Scientific American article by James Hansen? Would that be an example of the ridiculous claims of ideologically driven Bush-bashers you’re talking about?

Mike S.

Like you, Mike S., I never tire. But I also do my best to avoid silly generalizations about large groups of people. I consider myself an “environmentalist” so, yeah, your remarks are annoying (and just plain wrong).

Does anybody know whether a 25% reduction in the rate of warming is going to make any difference over the next 100 or 200 years? I don’t, and I’m not in favor of radically changing our economy in order to try and find out.

I’ll set aside this straw man about “radically changing our economy” for a moment and focus on the inherent bias in your paranoia. You admit that you don’t have any idea what the effects are of a 25% reduction in the rate of warming over the next 100 or 200 years. But do you have ANY thoughts or impressions, Mike, of what the effect on the Earth will be if the population continues to grow at its present rate, consume fossil fuels at its present rate, and emit greenhouse gases at its present rate? Do you claim that there is not enough data to make a reasonable hypothesis about the likely results? It sounds to me like that is what you’re claiming.

And yet, in spite of all this, you seem very very certain, Mike, that any changes to our economy or any restrictions on industrial emissions or expansion are virtually guaranteed to cause untold misfortune to the citizens of the United States. My God, such “radical” changes to our economy might even cause the United States to cease being the world’s only superpower! God forbid we ever have to share that role with another country again. It would much better to completely drain the Colorado River of water and destroy all the remaining wetlands in the country than it would be to become like France.

GWW Wrote:

It would much better to completely drain the Colorado River of water and destroy all the remaining wetlands in the country than it would be to become like France.

Hmmm you know that you might have got more agreement with me if you used another country besides France :)

Global warming is a trend we observe. We know we add to it significantly. What we don’t know is the ramifications and how well the earth will bounce back from it. While I laugh at “the day after tomorrow” I find it hard to say we shouldn’t put in regulations to slow down emmissions. Saying we should sit back and do nothing while we learn more is stupid. These same sources of green house gases are also sources for material that is harmful to us besides making it a few degrees warmer.

Believe me I’m not a dread lock, no bathing, wanna be hippie, ignorant hippie. I’m a conservative clean shaven proud former US Marine. I just don’t think businesses should be able to polute at the rate they are now simply because we don’t know everything. As far as globalisation goes I’m all for it as long as it really does positively effect that masses around the world. If it just means more sweat shops in Asian countries then they can get stuffed. I don’t want a system where everyone makes the same amount of money but it is stupid to have wealth differences that we have now.

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This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on July 13, 2004 10:18 PM.

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