Thursday, April 6, 2006

‘Selective’ Freedom of Speech?

LiteWe have Marlboro ‘lights’ and ‘lite’ beer (for those who don’t know how to spell) and so I suppose it’s only natural that we should be introduced to free speech ‘light.' Pre-washed like jeans, pre-shrunk to fit our sense of inquiry pre-positioned to get us thinking the right thoughts in this time of mid-term pre-election.


Spin used to mean the way you told the story. Now, chapter and verse is spun clear out of it. If that’s not possible, a line-item mark out takes place with black Magic Marker. A whole new meaning for line-item veto.


This complications of global warming have become so confusing that even George Will can’t seem to make sense of them and making sense is George’s long suit. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the latest government agency to feel the chill of line-item veto. The mark-out guys dealt particularly heavy handedly with Pieter Tans. With the Earth System Research Laboratory at NOAA for over twenty years, Pieter’s scientific peers are feeling the neocon pinch.


As in don’t disclose the numbers, as in don’t even get close to the words global warming, warming climate and climate change. You’d rather expect that something as specifically named as the Earth System Research Laboratory would have to at least touch on what's going on with the Earth's systems. Particularly in times when other scientific organizations (with the exception of George Will) are documenting disappearing ice-flows. 


PolarbearIn a recent study appearing in the journal Science, University of Alaska researchers, using a satellite laser system found that the rate of melting amounts to 24 cubic miles annually. Can you conceive of a block of ice a mile square and a mile deep? Can you form any relevant mental picture of 24 times that much? Disappearing? Polar bears catching the last ice-flow out of town?


Now then, if that proves to be correct or incorrect, it ought to have a considerable place in the public dialog. Either way, it’s not small news. Either way, it’s unconscionable that we who pay for the funding of NOAA, as well as its Earth Systems Research division, are blacked out of the agency’s scientific conclusions.


By our own government? C'mon, guys, the truth will set you free, whatever that truth is.


LautenbacherOn their web site, the NOAA claims to be ‘taking the pulse of the planet,’ but apparently not its temperature. Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher (retired), is serving as the undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, overseeing the day-to-day functions of NOAA, as well as laying out its strategic and operational future. Under his wing (and it’s a big wing) shelters the


  • National Environmental Satellite

  • Data and Information Services

  • National Marine Fisheries Service

  • National Ocean Service

  • National Weather Service

  • Oceanic and Atmospheric Research

  • Marine and Aviation Operations

  • and the NOAA Corps

The Secretary of Commerce, for whom Lautenbacher serves as undersecretary, is Carlos Gutierrez and he’s the former chairman of the board and CEO of Kellogg Company, the corn-flake folks. In nominating Gutierrez, President Bush said,

“He understands the world of business, from the first rung on the ladder to the very top. He knows exactly what it takes to help American businesses grow and to create jobs.”

I’ll just bet he does. And what it takes is not to let subordinates of subordinates run around letting the general public in on the fact (George Will withstanding) that we’re melting like popsicles. Bad for business. Bad, bad, bad.


CarlosgutierrezI’m not saying that Carlos has the word out to Conrad. How would I know? But GB never said of Lautenbacher that he knew business inside out. Science maybe, but not business and this is a business administration.


Quoting an April 6th Juliet Eilperin article in WaPo,

“Administration officials said they are following long-standing policies that were not enforced in the past. Kent Laborde, a NOAA public affairs officer who flew to Boulder last month to monitor an interview Tans did with a film crew from the BBC, said he was helping facilitate meetings between scientists and journalists.

Facilitate. Make easier. It’s easier with the line-item veto, fewer words to worry about and everyone can break for lunch on time. But it's still a long way to fly, Kent.

"We've always had the policy, it just hasn't been enforced," Laborde said. "It's important that the leadership knows something is coming out in the media, because it has a huge impact. The leadership needs to know the tenor or the tone of what we expect to be printed or broadcast.

Leadership? Certainly not Lautenbacher. Not George Will, tell me it isn’t so. You talking about the cornflake guy, Kent?


According to Eilperin’s piece, several times agency officials have tried to alter what these scientists tell the media. When Tans was helping to organize the Seventh International Carbon Dioxide Conference near Boulder last fall, his lab director told him participants could not use the term "climate change" in conference paper's titles and abstracts.


Anyway, during a week of ironing things all those things out, another half a cubic mile of ice disappeared into someone’s martini.
_______________________________________________


A bunch more environmental issues muddying the waters on my personal web site.