Friday, January 14, 2005

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

When Bush calls a given program "essential," it's a pretty good indication that he intends to cripple it financially, or eliminate it altogether. Consider the sad fate of two important climate monitoring networks:

Congress has eliminated funding for a fledgling network of 110 observation stations intended to provide a definitive, long-term climate record for the United States.

The surprise assault on the Climate Reference Network (CRN) was buried in the 3000-page omnibus spending package for 2005 signed last month by President George W. Bush (Science, 3 December 2004, p. 1662). Legislators also took a bite out of a long-established atmospheric monitoring network that includes the historic time sequence of increasing carbon dioxide levels measured at Hawaii's Mauna Loa. Both networks are key pillars in a much-touted international "system of systems" for earth observation that the Bush Administration has called essential for resolving uncertainties in the connection between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change (Science, 20 August 2004, p. 1096)
If you say that a program is "essential for resolving uncertainties," and then refuse to fund it, the logical conclusion is that you prefer uncertainty to facts. This typifies BushCo's "don't ask, don't tell" approach to science: it doesn't ask important questions, and doesn't wish to be told important things. Facts are meaningful only to the extent that they provide justification for doing what you've already decided to do.

Another example: the GOP's beloved missile defense is one of the great technological failures of our time. It simply doesn't work in any meaningful way. Its greatest "successes" have been due to a testing protocol that's analogous to playing "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" with one's eyes open, and bears no resemblance to likely real-world events. Now, it's failed yet again. But that's no reason to fret, according to the general in charge of the project:
Obering expressed confidence that the system "would work" if pressed into service against relatively simple enemy targets, meaning warheads without complex decoys or other measures for deceiving U.S. interceptors.
Which means, in other words, that it wouldn't do what it needs to even if it weren't a malfunctioning mess. Still, we'll fund the missile defense program, which doesn't work, and de-fund climate monitoring, which does.

1 comment:

Watch 'n Wait said...

2006 cannot get here fast enough....