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Whistleblowers and Witch Hunters

Some are fired. Some are simply muzzled. When considering whether those events are a distinction or a disgrace the question that must be asked is “Who did it?” If it’s George W. Bush it’s a distinction. And so James E. Hansen joins Glen Hubbard, Paul O’Neill, Lawrence Greenfield, Brian Steidle, Susan Wood and a host of others who have been muzzled or fired for failing to promulgate or for exposing Bush lies.

Glen Hubbard was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors. Before the Iraq war started George Bush and his lying cronies told the world the war would cost $50 billion. Mr. Hubbard said the war would cost $200 billion. They were both wrong. To date the war has cost more than $238 billion and the cost goes up by the minute. Mr. Hubbard was fired.

Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill opposed tax cuts for the rich and federal budget deficits. He was fired. Lawrence Greenfield was the director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. A congressionally ordered study found that Hispanic and black motorists were three times more likely to be searched or have their vehicles searched than were whites. Mr. Greenfield included the findings in his agency’s press release announcing the study’s results. He was told to delete the reference and refused. He was demoted.

Brian Steidle was a Marine captain who worked in Darfur, Sudan as a military advisor. He showed people pictures of acts of genocide taking place there. The state department ordered him to quit showing the photos. He refused. Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times reports that Mr. Steidle has been told he is blacklisted from all U.S. government jobs.

There are other examples. These suffice to let Dr. Hansen know that he is in good company. The rest of us can take no such comfort.

Dr. Hansen is the longtime director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and has been with the agency since 1967. He is one of the world’s experts on global warming. He has been warning about the dangers of global warming for 18 years. Dr. Hansen says that 2005 was the warmest year on record. He says the burning of fossil fuels
has caused a buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. He has not been popular with George Bush for some time.

According to the New York Times he acquired his disfavored status when he gave a speech before the last presidential election saying he was voting for John Kerry. Things got even worse for him in December, 2005. That was the month in which he gave a dangerous speech of the sort that frightens George Bush. He said there should be a prompt reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

Mr. Bush disapproves of global warming. It’s not the warming itself of which he disapproves. It’s the concept. That’s why he backed the United States out of the Kyoto treaty. Not everyone opposes the concept. There are some people even smarter than George Bush who think global warming may threaten mankind’s very existence. Mr. Bush does not like to hear from them because they contradict what he believes. Just as Mr. Bush thinks he can do whatever he wants because he’s president even if it means breaking the law, he also thinks he can believe whatever he wants even if he’s wrong.

He can also silence anyone who works for him who, not sharing his ignorance, publicly says so.

After Dr. Hansen gave his speech he was told that thenceforth the Institute’s public affairs staff would be required to “review his lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard website and requests for interviews from journalists.”

This was not because all these people are smarter and better informed than Dr. Hansen. The reason everything must be reviewed is that the administration wants to control what Mr. Bush’s subjects hear. Dr. Hansen says he will ignore the restrictions. “They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public” he was quoted as saying.

Of course people at the Goddard Institute disagree.

Dean Acosta is the deputy assistant administrator for public affairs. He said that there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. “That’s not the way we operate here at NASA. We promote openness and we speak with the facts.”

In the hated December speech Dr. Hansen not only warned of the perils of global warming. He said that he and other climate scientists were being muzzled. As the litany of muzzled and fired officials described above demonstrates, Dr. Hansen is in good company. It’s the rest of us who suffer when the administration protects us from the truth. We’ll get used to it.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. he can be reached at: Brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu

 

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