We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.
Edward R. Murrow, 1954 comment
on Joe McCarthy
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 Boulder lawyer and and writes a weekly column for the Knight Ridder news service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org