Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Censoring Science

HuffPo is reporting that "[a] high-ranking Interior Department official tainted nearly every decision made on the protection of endangered species over five years." Apparently, according to a new report, Julie MacDonald, the former deputy assistant secretary overseeing the American Fish and Wildlife Service "did pervasive harm to the department's morale and integrity and may have risked the well-being of species with her agenda, Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney said." More from the story:

The Interior Department last year reversed seven rulings that denied endangered species increased protection, after an investigation found that MacDonald had applied political pressure in those cases. The new report looked at nearly two dozen other endangered species decisions not examined in the earlier report. It found MacDonald directly interfered with at least 13 decisions and indirectly affected at least two more.

MacDonald, a civil engineer with no formal training in natural sciences, resigned in May 2007. Department employees reported that they used her name as a verb _ encountering political interference from senior managers was called "getting MacDonalded."

Devaney said "MacDonald's zeal to advance her agenda has caused considerable harm to the integrity of the ESA program and to the morale and reputation" of the Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as potential harm to animals under the Endangered Species Act.

"Her heavy-handedness has cast doubt on nearly every ESA decision issued during her tenure," from 2002 until 2007, the report said. MacDonald was deputy assistant secretary from 2004 to 2007 and a senior adviser in the department for two years before that.

This is not unusual. When it comes to climate change and science, the Bush administration has done a great job of keeping scientists in line. Earlier this year I read Censoring science : inside the political attack on Dr. James Hansen and the truth of global warming (©2008 by Mark Bowen)

which talked about how NASA was pressured to keep Hansen's work and views away from the public. Much of this is typical; governments don't want information to be free for mostly political reasons. Studies are buried, polls disappear, all this is old news. But what we are seeing--both south of the border and here--is a new attempt to simply deny anyone access to the basic information on which we can make informed decisions. This is not disagreement on what information means, or whether a study is at all important. What it does mean is that the essential information is being repressed (in allegedly open and democratic societies). this is not an argument, for example, over whether stuff falls at 32 feet per second squared in a vacuum, but is closer to an attempt to repress the knowledge that stuff falls at all. Our governments--particularly south of the border, but I don't except the harper government (particularly after the lies and hysteria they spread when their hold on power was recently threatened)--currently most resemble the Catholic Church during the intellectual struggle over the change from a Ptolemaic to Copernican systems of thought. It is a situation where ideology is far more important than observable facts or even consensus reality. We've seen where this has left Bush (wondering why people are throwing shoes at him, and believing that his legacy will be awe-inspiring--clearly de-linked from reality). What we don't pay enough attention to is where this is leaving the public, both here and in the US.

Where it leaves us is in deep trouble. The world is being badly thrashed by environmental problems, religious problems, and a host of issues that are at heart, political. And the public is being harshly mistreated by our political and corporate masters, brainwashed, brain-damaged, and being left drowning in a stew of incoherent ideology and magical thinking. When we finally come to terms with the need to do something about a problem, magical thinking is all we're left with. Which is great for the Overlords--they get to keep doing whatever they want, free of any threats to their dominance. There is, over on Finlayson Road a garage door that must make the neighbours crazy: brightly painted with a large peace symbol and the words "peace now!" But a couple of years back, the door was changed. The peace symbol was painted over with a large "No" bar (the circle with a slash symbol), and the words "peace now" crossed out and replaced with "Revolution Now!" Can't say that I disagree.

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