Empire of Soda
I recently read Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science, which I recommend just in case you are feeling that there is not quite enough despair in your life right now. While my reactions to Mooney's detailing of Republican lies about and twisting and misuse of science mostly took the form of, sigh, yes, I know, there are more than a couple of holy shit no fucking way moments.
Take for example Mooney's description of a memo written in 2004 by William Steiger of Health and Human Services.
"Effective immediately," Steiger declared, the WHO [World Health Organization] could no longer ask specific U.S. experts to serve as scientific or technical advisers. Instead, the WHO would have to submit requests to Steiger's office, which would then identify and "appropriate expert" to participate. Steiger's letter also stated that U.S. government scientists must represent the U.S. "at all times and advocate U.S. Government policies."We learn subsequently that under Steiger scientists had to clear visits to the D.C. offices of WHO as "foreign travel."
About a year ago I wrote a blog about freedoms that exist only in America. Yet if we changed just a few nouns of Steiger's memo it would sound scarily like the pronouncement of a Soviet apparatchik, and could be cited as an example of the inevitability of the failure of Communism.
What was it that led to HHS's
Stalin-like clampdown on U.S. scientists? It was a WHO report (to which U.S. scientists had contributed) that identified a link between soft drink consumption and childhood obesity. Yes, a reality-based U.S. scientist went out on a limb and suggested that maybe having our kids pour sugar and food coloring down their gullets all day long isn't the best thing for them. And HHS jumped to the rescue ... of Coke, Pepsi, and the Sugar Advisory Board.
There was a time when the world's greatest scientists all came to this country, in part to have the freedom to pursue their work without government interference. Now they're leaving.
Even if you believe Cheney-Bush to be on the ropes today the kind of damage they've already done will not be undone easily, certainly not with one election.