Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Shadow on American Democracy

I just did an interview with CNN (Miles O’Brien) re “censoring science”. The point I emphasized is that overreaching by the Executive Branch, trying to make government science submit to political command and control, is a threat to our democracy, and, as a result, a threat to the planet. The scary part about this story is that seeds have been sown, and a playbook has been codified (although not written!), that will make the situation much worse unless the American public recognizes the problem and makes an issue of it.
Do you know that before a government scientist testifies to Congress his/her testimony is typically reviewed and edited by the White House Office of Management and Budget? When I asked for a justification, I was told that a government scientist’s testimony “needs to be consistent with the President’s budget”.
The Public Affairs Offices (PAOs) of science agencies have become mouthpieces for the Administration in power.
The scary part of this story is that PAO political appointees are learning how to cover their tracks.... As the tracks are covered better and better, it is as if we have a shadow government organization controlling information that the public receives.
Would you believe that the current head of NASA PAO had a senior position in the Southern Company, the second largest holding company of coalburning utilities in the United States?
At the AAAS meeting in Boston on Saturday February 16, I am receiving their Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility. There are still a couple of free seats at my table where I can identify people to take them, so if you are attending AAAS or in the neighborhood and interested, let me know. --Dr. James E. Hansen
The Shadow on American Democracy

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