Orbital Matters

Saturn Smith
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APRIL 30, 2010 1:26PM

Reports Show Politics Wins Over Science at the EPA

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On the same day we're hearing that the Obama administration -- faced with disastrous evidence -- may, after all, be changing its policy related to oil drilling in the Gulf, Politics Daily notes that scientific and environmental decisions are more endangered than ever in our political climate. The EPA's Committee on Science Integration for Decision Making has posted draft summaries of interviews with hundreds of EPA staffers that show an alarming pattern:

Environmental Protection Agency staffers have been forced to ignore relevant science, have lacked key monitoring data on human health and environmental impacts, and have worked without crucial information needed to protect the public, according to the preliminary findings of a scientific advisory board.
The reports appear on the EPA Web site, and they are full of troubling assertions. For instance, scientists in Region 7, which covers Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa, had this to say [PDF]:
Another scientist provided a different historical perspective, describing EPA's evolving efforts to protect ecosystems. It has taken a long time for the public to understand ecosystem impacts and for EPA organizations to adapt and change processes to integrate analysis of ecosystem effects into decision making. He started a remote-sensing group 20 years ago, but decision makers have been slow to use the data for decision making. Emergency response managers use some of the data; enforcement managers sometimes use it, but often there are "tradeoffs between science you think should driving things and the real politik" of the decisions actually made.

Yet another scientist responded that Regions have developed a process for using science. Regions try to be consistent, transparent, and conservative. They follow policy set by Headquarters and "fear going rogue." There are impediments to doing original science or using new science, because new information may not be peer reviewed or fit with existing policy.

Emphasis mine. The block on innovation is particularly troubling, considering that these same regions have reported not only an increase in attracting top talent -- the tanking economy has actually helped the EPA in this way -- but also a dependence on post-doctoral candidates. If the nation's best and brightest are being routinely trained to avoid new methods and tactics, that bodes very ill for our scientific future.

One important thing to note: so far, the reports I've read don't lay the blame squarely on one administration or another. True, most of them are discussing recent events -- Bush-era events and slights -- but they're talking about politicians at both the national and state levels, Democrats and Republicans. What this report will most likely show is that the stifling of scientific data that doesn't agree with the party line isn't limited to one side of the aisle.

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When I was a kid, the EPA was a hero! Too bad that had to get sullied and tarnished by mere politicians. But all the federal regulatory agencies are subject to whatever the Administration sets at priorities or answers (ahead of investigations). I'm not surprised to hear about the Bush administration and EPA--feels like deja vu.
I am not surprised. Sad. But not surprised. Americans have been demonizing science for decades.
What happens in the federal bureaucracy below the cabinet level is always a Disney attraction called Bureaucracyworld. Bizarro logic has a life of its own at the mid- and regional levels. When the careerists take over (who are of uneven competency to say the least), they are the ones who give bureaucracy a bad name.

And that's why JFK used his telephone to ream some GS-12s new body part openings on a periodic basis.
Great exposure of some of the behind-the-scenes action of our government.

Something not expressed here is what drives this “real politik” to which you refer? The answer in this case, as is almost always the case in matters such as this, is love and worship of money, hard cold cash. Corporate power that drives our government slows anything that will decrease, even slightly, their profits and the government, being owned by them, simply plays along as much as possible. It’s all about $$$$$$$$$$$.

I recently interacted with one of my state legislature representatives regarding the hunting of wolves in my state. He looked into it and came back to me with an email message that essentially downplayed the ecosystem aspects of the issue in favor of hunters’ rights. And, of course, hunters are a paying political faction that has a lot of pull with these guys; toe our line or we’ll put our money behind someone else who will.

Money-holics poisoning our bodies for their thrill.

But there is another question lurking, as well: what exactly defines “real politik”?

politics based on practical and material factors rather than on theoretical or ethical objectives

So how do we define “practical and material factors” and “theoretical or ethical objectives” in this equation? In the case of my encounter with my state representative, is “hunters’ rights” more practical and material” than a healthy ecosystem? I don’t know; to me it seems the opposite is true: hunters’ rights are theoretical and ethical objectives while the health of the ecosystem is practical and material. And this applies well to the issue of drilling in the Gulf.

Excellent reporting on a very depressing state of affairs: EPA seems to have become all about discouraging scientists from actually practicing science, especially when it comes to exploration, experimentation, or thinking eveny outside the box.
no one would expect to sell wright 'fliers' anymore, or model t's. but the american political system is much older, and its model older still. the 18th century british polity made no provision for change, for the notion of evolution was not born, and aristocracy assumed that the best was on top of right.

the american deck of spaceship earth is being run on principles and methods developed for sailing ships. these methods at best can not cope with modern problems, and at worst create problems which are likely to be fatal: over-population, resource exhaustion, pollution are killing the planet.

survival demands a rational plan for management of society. it will not come from those at the top now, for they see no need for change. it won't come from the masses, they are ignorant and busy finding a meal. academics might have something to say, but no one listens to them.

very possibly it won't come at all. a massive population crash is the most likely next phase. let's hope the next human efflorescence is better able to see, and deal with, long term problems.
We came over twenty years ago across 7 seas and 13 rivers just because of Science.
Only 14% of adults in US consider evolution to be definitely true.
Enough said.
I live downstream from the Dow Chemical Plant in Mid-Michigan and I think that the EPA does a fair job, now. This whole area and the long (really long) history of their massive contamination of this area is a disgusting mess.

What I have felt from the beginning to be a human health issue and an environmental catastrophe has been taken over by politicians and lobbying groups and that's just on the local level! Throw the State of Michigan (and 'moderate' democrat Jenny Granholm) into the mix and stir in our federal politicians (many of whom worked for Dow and still draw pensions) and you have a real mess.

Pre-Obama I've been to meetings where the Chamber of Commerce swaggers around like a dictator throwing their weight around. Where obsequious politicians simper and whine at the mere thought of meaningful penalties for Dow's deliberate poisoning of our rivers, bay and our land. Where Dow funds local AstroTurf groups to lie and obfuscate the truth and where the above mentioned politicians (including, surprisingly 'democrat' Jenny) hog tie and gag the state departments that are charged with environment and human health.

I remain highly skeptical of ANYTHING that ANY political person does or says BUT remain hopeful that something meaningful will be done.

People here run from the stamping of the feet of Dow. How the hell they got into this position of being the condemner and the savior is just amazing. They threaten with jobs and cutbacks and yet also find themselves in a pickle because they can't leave. Heck, they built their new ball park on a toxic waste dump. The area is contaminated and Dow and their cadre of political henchmen dance to classical music sipping french champagne. THAT is what the EPA is working against.

I don't think that ANY agency that seeks to cleanup the environment can have ANY political ties but that's impossible... I have friends that are hopeful that things will be meaningfully cleaned up and that this area will be a beacon of hope for the many other areas the respecter of 'the human element' has poisoned in their quest for massive profits above all. It is funny how they love 'clean water' but won't clean up our river and bay. Not profitable I guess...

See TRWNEWS.net and CleanWatershedCampaign.org for more information on what we face.
I guess that my point is that if you think that the EPA is crooked or bad now, you should just take a look back under the Bush administration. It was a cesspool and that's not trying to be funny or ironic.

Mary Gade was forced out because she was being 'too hard' on Dow Chemical over their dioxin contamination in MY neighborhood!

You want to see the polarization of a community? You want to see the power if living next to a 'company town'? You want to see people so afraid to stick up for their own children's health and their economic and biological health? Well, you should stop over sometime... 'Stepford' community? Yep. Someone even tried to get Erin Brockovich here and she turned them down. AND I LIVE HERE and can't afford to sell me house for a loss and more the hell outta here... Give the EPA some time. Time is all we have...
What a joke! Can you believe that Bush still hasn't been to the area to witness the damage??!! Just yet another example of just how bad BUSH is!! Can you only imagine just how many of you would be blogging and condemning if this had been under Bush's watch? Oh how easy it is to pile on the "other" side. We heard about Katrina for how long??? We STILL hear you whine about Katrina, and those poor "victims" only had how many days notice that a HUGE HURRICANE WAS COMING!!! No wait, it just came out of no where and they had zero chance. And his clean-up effort was so much easier...I mean, getting to one isolated oil platform as opposed to say THE ENTIRE SOUTHEAST THAT WAS STILL UNDER WATER...come on, no comparison. Yet all you sorry liberals still condemn Bush and it only pains you so much when you finally have to even remotely address Obama's failings. So do this, picture this EXACT situtation and picture it as if Bush was still president, then write all your blogs and then replace all your Bush and Republican criticism with Obama and the Dems. Go ahead and see if just for once you really CAN be fair and impartial. It just hurts so much.
Remember how many of you condemned Joe Wilson for calling the President a liar? How anyone who criticizes Obama MUST BE RACIST? Well turns out Joe Wilson has been right all along. Let's see if you are even half as quick to apologize as you were to condemn. Being the gutless, spineless and complete principle lacking liberals that you are, I think we all know how yet again you will come up short.

OH HOW EASY IT IS TO FORGET THE LIES OF OUR OWN. Just what would you say if these lies belonged to George Bush? Oh it hurts so bad knowing you are nothing more than a sorry hypocrite.

End income tax for seniors making less than $50,000

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End no-bid contracts above $25,000

"Will ensure that federal contracts over $25,000 are competitively bid.">>More

Allow imported prescription drugs

"Allow Americans to buy their medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe and prices are lower outside the U.S.">>More

Direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a comprehensive study of federal cancer initiatives

"As president, Barack Obama will immediately direct his Secretary of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with agency officials, academic researchers, cancer survivors and advocates for people with cancer, and state public health officials, to comprehensively examine the various cancer-related efforts of federal agencies, and provide recommendations to eliminate barriers to effective coordination across federal agencies and between the federal government and other stakeholders.">>More

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"Barack Obama will double the Peace Corps to 16,000 by its 50th anniversary in 2011 and push Congress to fully fund this expansion, with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean.">>More

Allow five days of public comment before signing bills

To reduce bills rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them, Obama "will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.">>More

Tougher rules against revolving door for lobbyists and former officials

"No political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration.">>More

Double funding for afterschool programs

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As president, "will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws.">>More

Allow bankruptcy judges to modify terms of a home mortgage

Will repeal provisions of the Chapter 13 law that prohibit bankruptcy judges from modifying the original terms of home mortgages for ordinary families -- regardless of whether the loan was predatory or unfair or is otherwise unaffordable -- "so that ordinary families can also get relief that bankruptcy laws were intended to provide.">>More

Support human mission to moon by 2020

Will "endorse the goal of sending human missions to the Moon by 2020, as a precursor in an orderly progression to missions to more distant destinations, including Mars.">>More

Pay for the national service plan without increasing the deficit

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Recognize the Armenian genocide

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No family making less than $250,000 will see "any form of tax increase."

"I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.">>More

Negotiate health care reform in public sessions televised on C-SPAN

To achieve health care reform, "I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies -- they'll get a seat at the table, they just won't be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies. And so, that approach, I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process.">>More

Create a public option health plan for a new National Health Insurance Exchange.

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I think the Democrats are constantly trying to appease the fringe on the right. So now we are stuck with evolution deniers, climate change deniers, and just a dumbed down population. Scary! R
But Citizen Justice, I'd love to see a list of all that Bush promised as he ran for president. Seems like I remember something about him being the 'environment president', which I took to mean a positive thing...

The problem with pre-election promises is they usually end up on the floor, like a padded push-up bra. It's all to make the candidate look 'desirable' so that people vote for them. Candidates aren't stupid. That doesn't mean that I'm not disappointed that Obama has turned into a 'moderate democrat' and has chickened out on many of the things he promised.

I just think back to the 'I'm a uniter not a divider' that the lying retard Bush hissed after his daddies friends gave him the presidency and realize that in the end, we get what we get. In high school I dated a girl that stuffed her bra with, apparently, whatever she could find. Talk about 'buyers remorse'... ;-) I think that, like what motivated her to do what she did, the political election promise is driven out of insecurity. I doubt that Bush would have been elected if he told the truth that he planned to triple the deficit, declare two wars, ship our children off to be electrocuted in the shower by their crony war profiteers that they will pay billions for work that was criminally sub-par or never done at all.

Running for office is a first date. They get all dressed up and pushed up and smell so sweet and laugh at our jokes and make us want them... Time was those promises meant something. Now, they are just window dressing...
This was a very good article and very telling of the state of affairs between politics and science. Damn. What kind of wake up call do we need?
This was a very good article and very telling of the state of affairs between politics and science. Damn. What kind of wake up call do we need?
article very goog, thanks
Reports Show Politics Wins Over Science at the EPA. GREAT ARTICLE