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Paging Winston Smith...
September 18, 2002 12:45 PM   Subscribe

Paging Winston Smith... Not content with mere cynical doublespeak, the Bush Administration is now trying to shape government reports and research to agree with the President's beliefs: an EPA report omits a section on global warming for the first time in six years; the Department of Health and Human Services is being "restructured," eliminating committees that were coming to conclusions at odds with the president's views; and at the Department of Education, old studies that contradict the current administration's policies are being removed from the agency's web site. When you add this trend to the administration's "permanent war," I suspect George Orwell is smiling somewhere...
posted by mattpusateri (42 comments total)

 
I suspect George Orwell is smiling somewhere...

Or crying.
posted by hippugeek at 12:50 PM on September 18, 2002


Or jealous that he wasn't imaginative enough!

Is this another one of those axe grinding posts?
posted by nofundy at 12:54 PM on September 18, 2002


Axe grinding? Quite possibly... But it's an interesting to have all three of these stories in the same week, from different sources.
posted by mattpusateri at 12:59 PM on September 18, 2002


Or, you know, decomposing.
posted by alan at 1:02 PM on September 18, 2002


Matt, did you catch this article on the Ozone layer? Ozone hole to start shrinking and will close in 50 years, say scientists

THE SKY IS FALLING!!!
posted by Macboy at 1:05 PM on September 18, 2002


" Agency officials say the decision was made for two reasons: the agency has issued two other reports on climate this year, and the annual report is mainly meant to track pollutants that directly threaten people or ecosystems — substances like lead, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain."

Oh, I see... it was a threat to people/ecosystems for six years but now, once Dubya doesn't want to hear about it, it's not a threat?
posted by mckayc at 1:11 PM on September 18, 2002




I was in a restaurant the other day and I heard these greenhouse gases whispering about "having enough to heat it up" and "if they thought this summer was bad, wait until 2072"...
posted by techgnollogic at 1:24 PM on September 18, 2002


Macboy: ozone layer != global warming. Further, having read the first article you linked, a case could definitely be made that had we (collectively) ignored the hole in the ozone, it may well have continued to grow.

Also, the gist of the FPP was not to whip the global warming horse but to point out that the current administration is tailoring the historical record to suit their POV instead of reflecting a [more] objective accounting of our present situation.

Orwellian indeed. . .or perhaps Bradburian?
posted by Fezboy! at 1:38 PM on September 18, 2002


and you didn't call homeland security?!?!?!?!
posted by quonsar at 1:39 PM on September 18, 2002


The thing I don't get is, if there's uncertainty on global warming, why don't we default to the side of caution? I mean, there's uncertainty regarding whether I'll get heart disease when I'm older, but I still exercise and watch my diet. Caution is recommended in the face of a potential large risk, even if that risk is uncertain. It seems silly to ignore the prospects for global warming entirely until there's indisputable, gold-plated, suitable-for-framing evidence (like manhattan going underwater).

You can even do a quick cost-benefit analysis to determine how cautious we should be. You just multiply the risk of global warming occurring given our current greenhouse gas output (let's give both sides equal weight, just for the hell of it, and call this 50%) by the cost of global warming occurring (deaths by drowning, population displacement, massive disruption of agriculture, etc.). That's how much we should be spending right now in order to avoid global warming. Sure, reducing greenhouse gas emissions has an associated cost, but it's less than the potential future cost of global warming.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:42 PM on September 18, 2002


There is considerable uncertainty associated with the global warming hypothesis, says a distinguished scientist.

Wow, Macboy. You've really opened my eyes. If a six-year old article by a scientist employed by a noted conservative think tank is capable of contradicting a consensus of the world's leading climatologists, the conclusions of most of the world's governments and climate-monitoring NGOs, and mounds of abnormal weather phenomena easily discernable to the layperson - well, then, that's all I need to know.

Anyone know where I can buy a truckful of coal to heat my house with this winter?
posted by gompa at 1:45 PM on September 18, 2002


The thing I don't get is, if there's uncertainty on global warming, why don't we default to the side of caution? I mean, there's uncertainty regarding whether I'll get heart disease when I'm older, but I still exercise and watch my diet.

Not the same thing. While there is a preponderance of evidence that diet and excercise have an effect on heart disease, there is not even nearly a concensus on the cause of global warming (or even if it is a significant change.)

Funny, I've been doing a bit of research into my halloween costume over the past few weeks and over a relatively short period the natives of what is now northern Germany went from bare arms and legs and loose fitting clothing to wearing tight, fitted trousers and shirts with jackets. There was also rapid loss of glacial ice, land flooded and other land exposed, sometimes causing catastrophic changes in less than 100 years, and all of it occured without the intervention of man. Why are we so arrogant as to think it can't happen now?
posted by RevGreg at 1:53 PM on September 18, 2002


Hhhmmm ... a Republican administration wins the White House, and - shockingly - has the gall to think the the Executive Branch should reflect that fact. Gosh. Clinton never did anything like that.
posted by MidasMulligan at 1:57 PM on September 18, 2002


If we had a solution if it took 100+ years we might not worry but as it stands there is no solution so we are looking at an ever growing problem and no consensus which frightens a lot of people.
posted by stbalbach at 2:05 PM on September 18, 2002


Macboy: "Matt, did you catch this article on the Ozone layer? Ozone hole to start shrinking and will close in 50 years, say scientists

THE SKY IS FALLING!!!"


It's a good thing that we didn't listen to conservatives who were against the banning of CFCs etc. (or whatever it was) that were causing the ozone hole in the first place. It looks like sometimes regulation can be positive (although this is no endorsement of all regulations, many of which are stupid and counterproductive).

Many claim that there are disputes that global warming is a fact (actually, that humans are causing the warming -- the warming itself *is* a fact, if I'm not mistaken). That *is* a possibility, but I think we still should not ignore the issue because there is also the possibility that human activity *are* at least part of the problem. Accordingly, there definitely should be some reasonable precautions taken. To do so is only prudent.
posted by JKevinKing at 2:06 PM on September 18, 2002


While there is a preponderance of evidence that diet and exercise have an effect on heart disease, there is not even nearly a consensus on the cause of global warming (or even if it is a significant change.)

Preponderances and concensuses aside, there are a significant number of climate experts who predict a devastating impact from global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. Even if we give these experts only a 0.1% chance of being right, we should be spending a hell of a lot more than we are to prevent it. It's like getting car insurance: recognize the magnitude of the future risk and pay commensurately now to offset it. This seems like wise, moderate policy-making. Action cannot wait for consensus, or we would remain immobile in everything.

...changes in less than 100 years, and all of it occurred without the intervention of man. Why are we so arrogant as to think it can't happen now?

How does the fact that the climate has changed previously without human input have any bearing on the future prospect of human input affecting the climate? It's a different mechanism. This is like saying that since, in the past, glaciers have shaped terrain, I cannot change the shape of terrain with a bulldozer. It's a non-argument.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:10 PM on September 18, 2002


How about *showing* me the facts. "world's leading climatologists?" Start linking gompa
posted by Macboy at 2:11 PM on September 18, 2002


sorry, the worlds leading climatologists are unavailable until after the 6pm news.
posted by quonsar at 2:24 PM on September 18, 2002


Midas: there's a big difference between promoting a policy and using the power of the federal government to actively supress and conceal information that challenges it.

It's obvious that Bush & Co. are pro-industry and are actively undercutting environmental protections. No surprise there. But they are selectively making research and information "disappear". That's beyond politics. It reeks of Stalinism or totalitarianism. The leader is right... The leader is always right... Inconvenient "facts" that suggest otherwise will be done away with...
posted by mattpusateri at 2:25 PM on September 18, 2002


I just want you all to know that I've informed the Department of Homeland Security about this thread. It would be wise for you all to destroy your computers, any externally backed up data, and erstwhile "anti government" materials before the MacCarthyites come a-knocking at your doors.

You have been warned.
posted by tgrundke at 2:34 PM on September 18, 2002


Oceania is at war with Eurasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

And Keeeeerist Almighty, Matt. you give links conjuring doublespeak and thoughtcrime on a front page post, and then you don't even have the common courtesy to provide links praising Big Brother's smile, the joy of destroying verbs, the fantastic stock returns proles earn now that the rich Inner Party holds the reins, and the comfortable recliner and wildlife exhibit in room 101.

Don't you know anything about "balance"?

~wink~

Funny, I've been doing a bit of research into my halloween costume over the past few weeks and over a relatively short period the natives of what is now northern Germany went from bare arms and legs and loose fitting clothing to wearing tight, fitted trousers and shirts with jackets. There was also rapid loss of glacial ice, land flooded and other land exposed, sometimes causing catastrophic changes in less than 100 years, and all of it occured without the intervention of man. Why are we so arrogant as to think it can't happen now?

Cazart! That's a scientific study we can count on. And have ya heard? Mink coats are back in style! I say we rip the goddammed catalytic converters from our new SUVs.

How about *showing* me the facts. "world's leading climatologists?" Start linking gompa

~laugh~

I guess he could start with the link YOU provided, which states::

Government scientists at Cape Grim in Tasmania said scientific data showed the level of ozone-depleting chlorine in the atmosphere was declining because of the ban on the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in fridges and air conditioners, agreed under the Montreal Protocol in 1987.

In a reference to the international dissent over the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, Dr Fraser said: "I think this shows global protocols can work."

The bullets come out of the roundish opening in the barrel of the gun, not out of the rear sight.

Raise the barrel: your feet will thank me.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 2:35 PM on September 18, 2002


What mattpusateri said. I'm going to start looking for group photographs with Bush in them- maybe politically embarrassing "friends" will start disappearing from them. (We could have big Kenny Lay shaped gaps.)
posted by small_ruminant at 2:47 PM on September 18, 2002


Published since the 1970's, the reports have focused on air pollution restricted under the Clean Air Act as directly harming human health or ecosystems. But starting in 1996, the report also included sections on emissions that affect the global atmosphere, including chemicals that damage the ozone layer and carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

hhmmm ... if it is "censorship", or it is going to be implied that the Bush Administration has political motives for removing that section ... maybe an examination of why it was put in by Clinton is relevant? Why 1996? What was happening then? Some dramatic new scientific evidence come to light?

Well, er, no. But some pretty dramatic new polling evidence was coming to light. 1996 was an election year. The Clinton/Gore administration had perfected the political tactic called "run to the left, govern from the center". The trouble was that the environmental community - that had initially been estatic when Clinton and Mr. Earth-In-The-Balance took power in '92 - had grown increasingly disgruntled, and were getting quite noisy about it. Promises had been broken.

Clinton was increasingly perceived to be betraying a constituancy who thought they finally had a friend in the White House. People were actually beginning to speak in more serious terms about voting for the Green Party. The constituancy had to be locked-in again for the election ... so all sorts of different small (and not so small) efforts were made to show that the centrist-Clinton was also still the left-ist Clinton. Global warming langauge being inserted into that particular EPA report - where it had never appeared before (because that simply wasn't one of the issues that report was desgined to deal with) was only one of many decisions. All sorts of other things happened too ... probably the more memorable being the infamous Utah Monument fiasco.

So its a bit weird to accuse Bush of being "political" for removing a section that was originally inserted, by Bill Clinton's EPA, for "political" reasons.

Like it or not, the EPA is part of the Executive Branch, and that means the President gets to choose what is emphasized, and what is de-emphasized. Bush is simply doing what every President has done since the formation of the EPA.
posted by MidasMulligan at 2:50 PM on September 18, 2002


"world's leading climatologists?" Start linking gompa


This seems ridiculously unnecessary, but here goes:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Those wild-eyed radicals at that pinko rag The Economist
posted by gompa at 3:08 PM on September 18, 2002


Gompa - only two links? C'mon you can do better!

In related news, Santa Claus found to be a hoax. After hearing about him for years my parents finally fessed up!

nice post Midas
posted by Macboy at 3:11 PM on September 18, 2002


Oh, MidasMulligan, there you go again giving disingenuousness a bad name. I hope your mother doesn't read MeFi.
You accuse Clinton's administration of being politically motivated in inserting the section in question. Yet the only supporting argument you make is that the elements of the Democratic Party most concerned with environmental issues were becoming unhappy.
Do you really mean to equate this sort of responsiveness to grassroots sentiment in Clinton's support base to the blatant oligarchical manipulations happening under the current administration?
Do you really think that it is somehow just as legitimate to sell out the common good of the entire planet as to cater to the sincere concerns of a huge number of one's constituents?
And, before I leave that particular point, may I call your attention to the fact that you have (correctly) noted the feeling on the part of many Dems that the move to the center by Clinton was a politically motivated betrayal. I happen to agree. But if this is the case, I think that adjusting the national agenda to reflect greater green consciousness can more reasonably be called a repair of damage caused by overly politicized prior adjustments. You , however, come to the opposite conclusion, even after undermining that conclusion with your own arguments.

Man, I can't stand it. OK, one more.
Bush is simply doing what every President has done since the formation of the EPA.
While one might be able to dig up evidence that each and every president associated with the EPA has at least occasionally taken steps detrimental to the function of that agency, it's nothing but silly to equate Bush's all-out attack on the environment with the odd p[oor compromise. Not since Reagan have we seen such pointlessly reactionary action on the environment.

Argh. I'll stop after this one, really.
the EPA is part of the Executive Branch, and that means the President gets to choose what is emphasized, and what is de-emphasized.
The President must still obey the law, as created by the legislative branch, or face the consequences, as decided by the judicial branch. This is how this government is designed, and the rest of us are not terribly happy that you and Bush seem to think that the executive branch should operate without checks and balances and above the law.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 3:36 PM on September 18, 2002


Certianly Bush can use the spoils system and I hope that come 2003 that the opposition points out that Bush has been working hard to trasform our government into a system of the weasels, by the weasles and for the weasles.

But then again, the opposition party is a bunch of weenies who are even afraid to point out that most of the Iran-Contra crew who were convicted once of funding terrorists and lying about it are back running our foreign affairs.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:05 PM on September 18, 2002




I hope your mother doesn't read MeFi.

No she doesn't. She died two years ago yesterday. Thank you so much for the lowest and most painful personal attack I've experienced in quite some time.

I think I'll be departing MeFi for awhile. This shit has really gotten over the top.
posted by MidasMulligan at 4:32 PM on September 18, 2002


Oh, quit your whining, MM. It's not like anyone here knows about the health status of your relatives. If someone had said that to your face (making the sort of faux pas that happens all the time in real life), would you have burst into tears and run away?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:49 PM on September 18, 2002


I am sorry to hear about your mother, Midas, but be fair. If Nicolae had known about your mother, it would have been a low-down personal attack. I imagine that he did not, and it was rather an unfortunately-timed use of a fairly common phrase.
posted by textureslut at 4:49 PM on September 18, 2002


I think the cavalcade of links that is starting to come out here on both sides raises an interesting point. None of us is a climatological expert (please correct me if I'm wrong), and we don't have the necessary knowledge and experience to judge the scientific evidence for global warming. So what we have are links to a series of opinion pieces urging us to believe one side or the other, insisting that there is or there isn't a scientific consensus, and generally addressing the debate without addressing the science (which is too technical for this audience anyway). As a scientist, none of these arguments sways me one way or the other, since they're essentially not scientific arguments. However, I don't have the time or interest to learn the field, read the literature, and make a scientific judgement, so how do I decide who to believe?

This is the same dilemma that faces policymakers addressing issues in which science plays a large role. They're not scientists, and the scientific community never speaks with a single voice, so how do they decide who to believe? It seems, far too often, that politicians disingenuously chose to believe whichever range of scientific opinions best suits their own political goals (no matter how far out of the mainstream the scientists who espouse those views may be). This is to be expected, I suppose, but it's not a very good way to make policy. There is never scientific certainty and unanimity, at least not on anything interesting, so policymakers must find a way to accommodate the range of opinion; to take all the science into account in their policy. How? Well, I'm glad that's not my problem, but I can tell you certainly that when it comes to global warming, our current policy of doing absolutely nothing about it fails to even come close to achieving this admirable ideal.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:59 PM on September 18, 2002




*realizes he could have been somewhat more pleasant in his chiding of MM, a la textureslut*

Sorry, MM, to hear about your mother. But my point applies nonetheless, I think.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:56 PM on September 18, 2002


Oh, MidasMulligan, there you go again giving disingenuousness a bad name. I hope your mother doesn't read MeFi.

Nicolae, there you go giving newbies a bad name. This kind of shit is unacceptable, and you owe Midas an apology.
posted by Ty Webb at 6:26 PM on September 18, 2002


Nicolae, there you go giving newbies a bad name. This kind of shit is unacceptable, and you owe Midas an apology.

Are you serious? An innocent comment that just happened to hit a sensitive nerve? As has already been mentioned, that sort of reference is par for the course in the American idiom. It wasn't even a "yo mama" joke, and it certainly wasn't intentional.

Receiving it as an intentional, personal attack is, IMHO, overly sensitive. I can see it rating an "Oops! Sorry about that." but yall are making it out to be in need of bended knee and groveling. Get. Over. It.
posted by kayjay at 6:55 PM on September 18, 2002


I hope that the researchers are right and that the hole in the ozone layer is stabilizing and perhaps even beginning to shrink, but does that mean that the ozone layer is no longer an issue?! Hardly.

It has been pointed out in the past by experts that most people in the world do not have refrigerators -- yet -- and that they aspire to have the same lifestyle that Westerners have. That means many, many more refrigerators. There are plans to help deal with this issue by encouraging CFC fridges, but it's not known yet just how effective these programs will be.

In other words, you cannot extrapolate that the hole in the ozone layer will shrink or expand based on current worldwide CFC emmisions. The U.S. and other Western nations might have made rapid efforts to cut their CFC emmissions, and that is greatly to their credit... however, the rapid, widespread adoption of refrigerators overseas in China, India, and other parts of the 3rd world is almost certain to increase global CFC levels unless major action is taken.
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:04 PM on September 18, 2002


I can see it rating an "Oops! Sorry about that." but yall are making it out to be in need of bended knee and groveling. Get. Over. It.

actually, nobody said anything about groveling or bended knees, but thanks for playing. I think "Sorry about that" would do fine.
posted by Ty Webb at 7:05 PM on September 18, 2002


er... did I say "encouraging CFC fridges"?! I meant NON-CFC fridges of course. Yup. Uh huh.

(On weekends, I go out into the countryside with cans of aerosol deodorant, shooting them off into the sky while laughing maniacally... )
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:09 PM on September 18, 2002


actually, nobody said anything about groveling or bended knees, but thanks for playing. I think "Sorry about that" would do fine.

i don't think an apology is called for. not to sound like a heartless bastard, but really: midas, in his mind, turned "i hope your mother doesn't read MeFi" into something far worse than it was intended to be. if midas really is just so sensitive, then i'm sorry; but when i read midas' comments, i thought he was joking.

midas wrote:

I think I'll be departing MeFi for awhile. This shit has really gotten over the top.

yes, it has. you still don't think midas was joking?
posted by moz at 7:36 PM on September 18, 2002


I was going to stay quiet, but perhaps it would be wiser to shut the discussion down by posting an apology to MidasMulligan for inadvertently offending him. I would have preferred to do so privately, via e-mail, but MM doesn't give that out, and I have read enough MeFi archivage to know about the porn-bombing scare so I won't chide anyone for anonymity.

I did e-mail thanks to a couple of people who jumped to my defense. Cool heads, in my view.

In the original post, I meant to berate MM for what I considered a poorly thought out comment. As this was clearly negative feedback, I tried to soften it somewhat by opening with a cliched and not very funny joke.

I was unlucky in that MM happened to have recently lost his mother.

Unlucky. I really feel that unlucky is the unkindest way in which my comments can be characterized. I sympathize with MM for his loss. I remain unconvinced that my behavior was inappropriate. I know, certainly, that did not have any intention of causing MM any pain beyond the embarrassment of having his ideas savaged.

MM almost surely knows this too. Beyond that comment, everything I might think of to say would be very negative.

Don't get me wrong, I was a UseNet junkie ten years ago, so I have long since adopted the habit of wearing asbestos underwear when I post. I'm not mad, I've been accused of worse. No biggie.

"When you curse someone, dig two graves." -- Sakarambo, Buddhist philosopher

I apologize, rather more sincerely this time, to the community at large for derailing this thread so badly. It is my hope that many will agree with my thought that this doesn't warrant a MeTa thread, and I hope that the comment you are reading now will bring it to an end and get it out of everyone's hair.

Thank you for listening. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program of ... whoops. Almost got snarky again there.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 7:54 PM on September 18, 2002


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