Shutting Up the Scientists

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Posted April 12, 2006 by Static in News

Was it just coincidence that on the 10th anniversary of the first publication of this smart-mouthed rag the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression released its annual list of the “winners” of this year’s Best Censors Award?


The longer Static lives, the more karma seems a viable concept (think Tom DeLay, yes!). Going on that theory, maybe there is something magical in the timing – especially since one of the winners is a guy this paper has expended a generous amount of ink on over the years: our good neighbor, congressman, and pollution control expert “Smokey” Joe Barton.

There are of course other winners, among them the usual suspects: King, uh, Prez George the II for authorizing government eavesdropping on citizens’ private conversations, and lesser-knowns such as several school administrators around the country who confiscated student newspapers because they objected to the content.

But our old Smokey, who is the powerful chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and has tremendous influence over who gets federal energy research money, won big for using the clout of his office to exert a chilling effect on scientific research into global warming. Barton, as anyone who’s been paying attention knows, is the best friend of the cement kiln and coal-fired power plant industries that are the biggest industrial pollution contributors to the melting of the Arctic ice cap and the Alpine glaciers (among the many such red flag warnings the Earth is sending us). Don’t even think Barton will be deterred by the fact that many scientists are warning that these things could spell doom for the planet.

Last June, Barton sent letters to three prominent climate scientists and the National Science Foundation questioning “methodology flaws and data errors” in their federally funded global warming study, which concluded that human activity – including pollution from cement kilns and coal-fired power plants – is the major reason the ice caps are melting. Barton, whose letter indicated he was going to launch an investigation into their work, also asked for the scientists’ last 15 years of research data.

Such a request not only alarmed scientists, it made even one of his fellow Repubs livid. Sherwood Boehlert, chairman of the House committee on science, fired off a letter of his own, accusing Barton of raising “the specter of politicians opening investigations of any scientist who reaches a conclusion that makes the political elite uncomfortable.”

Way to go, Boehlert. Why aren’t there more of you?


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