Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Hunting Galileo: The Right's War on Science (Part II)

Slashing Spending

The GOP wants to excuse this based on the prevailing opinion that we need to reduce the deficit, but the whole thing is ridiculous. There are stupid cuts all over the place, but let’s get down to the science.  

How about a helpful list to start with? We won’t look into the vast majority of these in detail.

Here is the list of proposed cuts, all compared to President Obama’s FY11 budget request:
  • Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies   -$30M
  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy   -$899M
  • Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability   -$49M
  • Nuclear Energy   -$169M
  • Fossil Energy Research   -$31M
  • Clean Coal Technology   -$18M
  • Strategic Petroleum Reserve   -$15M
  • Energy Information Administration   -$34M
  • Office of Science under the Energy and water spending bill   -$1.1B
  • Power Marketing Administrations   -$52M
  • Department of Treasury   -$675M
  • Internal Revenue Service   -$593M
  • Treasury Forfeiture Fund   -$338M
  • GSA Federal Buildings Fund   -$1.7B
  • ONDCP   -$69M
  • International Trade Administration   -$93M
  • Economic Development Assistance   -$16M
  • Minority Business Development Agency   -$2M
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology   -$186M
  • NOAA   -$336M
  • National Drug Intelligence Center   -$11M
  • Law Enforcement Wireless Communications   -$52M
  • US Marshals Service   -$10M
  • FBI   -$74M
  • State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance   -$256M
  • Juvenile Justice   -$2.3M
  • COPS   -$600M
  • NASA   -$379M
  • NSF   -$139M
  • Legal Services Corporation   -$75M
  • EPA   -$1.6B
  • Food Safety and Inspection Services   -$53M (FY10)
  • Farm Service Agency   -$201M
  • Agriculture University Research   -$246M
  • Natural Resource Conservation Service   -$46M
  • Rural Development Programs   -$237M  
  • WIC   -$758M  
  • International Food Aid grants   -$544M
  • FDA   -$220M
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund   -$348M
  • National Archives and Record Service   -$20M
  • DOE Loan Guarantee Authority   -$1.4B
  • EPA ENERGY STAR   -$7.4M
  • EPA GHG Reporting Registry   -$9M
  • USGS   -$27M
  • EPA Cap and Trade Technical Assistance   -$5M
  • EPA State and Local Air Quality Management   -$25M
  • Fish and Wildlife Service   -$72M
  • Smithsonian   -$7.3M
  • National Park Service   -$51M
  • Clean Water State Revolving Fund   -$700M
  • Drinking Water State Revolving Fund   -$250M
  • EPA Brownfields   -$48M
  • Forest Service   -$38M
  • National Endowment for the Arts   -$6M
  • National Endowment for the Humanities   -$6M
  • Job Training Programs  -$2B
  • Community Health Centers  -$1.3B
  • Maternal and Child Health Block Grants  -$210M
  • Family Planning  -$327M
  • Poison Control Centers  -$27M
  • CDC   -$755M
  • NIH   -$1B
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services   -$96M
  • LIHEAP Contingency fund   -$400M
  • Community Services Block Grant   -$405M
  • High Speed Rail   -$1B
  • FAA Next Gen   -$234M
  • Amtrak   -$224M
  • HUD Community Development Fund   -$530M

National Journal, original emphasis

Oy, good gawd.

NASA

Republicans have been trying to cut NASA’s budget on and off for years. One of the major cuts they’re currently trying to make involves funding for climate change. Big surprise, eh?

This week, Reps. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah) called for a budget that would “reprioritize NASA” by axing the funding for climate change research. The original cuts to the budget outlined yesterday would have cut $379 million from NASA’s budget. These members want climate out of NASA’s purview entirely, however. Funding climate research, said Adams in a statement, “undercuts one of NASA’s primary and most important objectives of human spaceflight.”

Huffington Post

A bit more:

Republican cuts of more than $303 million to NASA’s budget will have a devastating effect on jobs and innovation projects at the Johnson Space Center through fiscal year 2011. NASA’s Johnson Space Center has advised us that it needs this funding to complete its 2011 mission.

Houston Chronicle

It should be noted that not all Republicans are necessarily in favor of cutting funding to NASA, and that some Democrats are. But this is now a longstanding pattern for the GOP. NASA is threatening to the Republicans. But why? For one thing, it is finding more and more evidence for climate change, which, as discussed previously, is one of the last things Republicans want. That aside, Republicans simply don’t value science the way many of us do, and they consider it something extraneous which can be snip-snip-snipped away at financially. They don’t see the importance of it, and they aren’t particularly interested in progress. Finally – though I don’t want to get too tinfoil hat on everyone – I can’t help thinking that agendas which include cutting funding for NASA have something to do with the desire to keep the population ignorant. Think back to when you were in school learning about space and astronauts. Think about how you feel when you see a picture like this:

…and imagine how many people are inspired by such things. Images like that make me wish I’d pursued a different career at times. NASA, astronauts, the myriad images and findings from space: They are inspiring to fertile, imaginative young minds, and they probably make many young people consider science-oriented career paths, even if they never turn out to be astronauts. I truly believe RepuRepublicans are afraid of science in some ways because real science is the antidote to ignorance, and therefore anathema to them and to most of what they stand for. Remember, only six percent of scientists turn out to be Republicans. In light of that it just seems to make sense that they would want to gut programs like NASA.

But whether their intents in cutting funding to NASA are outright iniquitous or just pathetically disinterested, the pernicious results are the same.

General Research

I’m not going to rant about all the ways Republicans have sought to defund or otherwise undermine scientific research because it would take forever, but here’s a brief note on the House proposed budget cuts that would affect research:

The federal government funds more than a third of all research-and-development spending nationwide, which totaled $398 billion from both public and private sectors in 2008, according to the National Science Foundation. Of that federal spending, about $30 billion is spent on “basic” research, the undirected scholarship aimed at producing fresh knowledge that has led to technologies ranging from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines to long-lived laptop batteries to the motors that make automobile power windows work. The House budget proposal cuts about $4.4 billion from that $30 billion in basic research.

USA Today

Who can deny the importance of research? Well, aside from Republicans of course. I’m talking about proper thinking people. Scientific research is critically important, and it is absolutely ludicrous to decide that this is an area of the budget that should be chipped away at. Essentially all of the technology – all of the vital knowledge we possess – that makes our lives better and longer is based on research done by brilliant minds. And a certain amount of funding is integral in order to conduct such research. Much of the funding being cut, by the way, pertains to energy and climate change. **sigh** But let’s not go there again.

Opposing Needle Exchange Programs

More arguing with science on “moral” grounds. In 2009, the Democrat-dominated Congress and President Obama lifted a 20+ year ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs. Having been in place for over two decades, Republicans and Democrats both kind of owned this embarrassing example of moral posturing. But is it still partisan? Of course. From 2008:

To some extent, needle exchange in a partisan issue, with more Democrats in Congress than Republicans ready to lift the ban. Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have said they would move to repeal the ban if elected president; GOP front-runner John McCain’s Senate office did not respond to a query about his position.

MSNBC

So how is the predominantly Republican opposition to these programs linked to their anti-science mentality? Easy. They opposed federal funding for these programs, despite plenty of scientific evidence elucidating their benefits. The proof is in the pudding research:

Other countries, particularly the Netherlands and Australia, have demonstrated that supplying drug addicts with clean needles in exchange for their used ones is an effective means of reducing the incidence of blood-borne diseases. Addicts receive a clean needle for every used one they turn in; this limits careless and dangerous disposal of contaminated needles. A 2002 report from Australia estimates that in the 1990s, Australia’s NEP helped avoid 25,000 cases of HIV and 21,000 cases of hepatitis C. In U.S. dollars, Australia’s investment of more than $71.8 million for the NEP resulted in a savings of between $1.3 billion and $4.1 billion.

The contrast between Australia and the United States, Martin notes, is “particularly striking,” as evidenced by a presentation that physician Alex Wodak made during a 2002 Baker Institute conference on “Moving Beyond the War on Drugs.” Wodak, who helped persuade the Australian government to support NEPs, reported that, in 2000, the rate of 14.7 new AIDS cases for every 100,000 Americans was dramatically higher than the rate of 1.1 new AIDS case for every 100,000 Australians.

Rice University

Oh, but what do researchers at Rice and other prominent institutions of higher education around the world know? After all, they’re controlled by liberal extremists, right? Yeah, yeah.

Point is, needle exchange programs have scientifically proven benefits. They decrease the likelihood of spreading HIV/AIDS – which, notably, disproportionately affects African Americans and Latinos (two group whose interests the GOP doesn’t much give a damn about)  – as well as other diseases commonly spread by contaminated needles.

This callous, pig-headed position of opposing needle exchange programs, supposedly on “moral” grounds or on the assertion that such programs “reward bad behavior,” is not only stupid and anti-science, but flat-out morally reprehensible. We know these programs save lives, yet the GOP is at it again. There is no excuse for such cold-blooded, insensitive idiocy.

Meddling with the FDA

Some of the GOP shenanigans involving this agency have to do with slashing funding, but there are enough sneaky dealings here that I think the FDA should be addressed separately. I see no need to offer much conjecture on this topic because the piles of evidence speak for themselves. There’s a history on this too, of course. The GOP has a track record of straight up manipulating agencies like the Food and Drug Administration for political reasons. During the Shrub administration, the FDA’s own scientists attacked the agency for mucking around with research and violating regulations.

Negligence was a big issue during the last administration (and they still want it that way). In the interests of deregulation/less oversight, a lot of harm was engendered. Unwitting though the damage may have been (not really), people died. The lax regulation of the pharmaceutical industry has been a serious problem, usually so that Republicans can make a buck. Bush was perhaps among the worst of them. Indeed, the Witless Wonder was no friend to the American consumer…

At Congressional hearings held Nov. 17 and 18, documentary evidence was released showing President Bush and his Administration’s culpability for the avoidable deaths of Americans due to the gross negligence of his Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These hearings inquired into, first, this and previous years’ increasingly drastic flu shot shortages; and second, how it is that the arthritis drug Vioxx was ever allowed onto the market for use. Both hearings showed that the FDA failed to do its job: safeguard the public’s health.

At the Nov. 17 hearing before the House Government Reform Committee, over 1,000 pages of FDA documents proved that the failure to secure enough flu vaccine-as Lyndon LaRouche had charged, pre-election, in a series of mass-circulated warnings to Americans-was a colossal, and deliberate, failure by the Bush/Cheney Administration which adheres to a murderous “free market” policy, especially vis-à-vis health care. The Nov. 18 hearing before the Senate Finance Committee provided devastating testimony from a 20-year veteran FDA scientist that the needless deaths from use of Vioxx, an FDA-approved drug, were a result of FDA higher-ups favoring pharmaceutical companies over public safety.

Executive Intelligence Review, emphasis added

…and especially no friend to women:

U.S. District Court Judge Edward R. Korman ruled Monday that the Food and Drug Administration allowed politics – not science – to dictate its 2006 decision to allow over-the-counter access to an emergency contraception pill only to women over 18.

Korman ordered the FDA to make the drug, marketed as Plan B, available to 17-year-olds without prescription within 30 days from the date of his ruling. He said the agency should revisit its decision to place any age restrictions on over-the-counter

[. . .]

“The FDA repeatedly and unreasonably delayed issuing a decision on Plan B for suspect reasons,” Korman wrote in a 46-page opinion.

Those reasons, he said, were political, not scientific. He believes they were based in part on the Bush administration’s sensitivity to those who argued that over-the-counter access to so-called morning-after birth control would increase teenage sexual promiscuity.

NPR

What does science have to say about Plan B, also known as the morning after pill? First, it does not induce abortions, despite Republican histrionics labeling it “the abortion pill.” So how does it really work?

“People mix up emergency contraception with abortion, and it is really inaccurate,” said Regine Sitruk-Ware, executive director of product research and development at The Population Council, a nonprofit that conducts research on reproductive science, including birth control and abortion procedures. “Political opponents of abortion want to prevent access to emergency contraception on the basis that it may prevent implantation, and therefore would be a sort of early abortive. This is not the case.”

The group, which claims no political or advocacy ties, issued a report (.pdf) on Wednesday summarizing Plan B scientific research that it says proves the drug prevents ovulation but doesn’t cause abortion.

Controversy over Plan B began in 2004 when the FDA refused, in a rare move against the recommendation of its scientific advisers, to approve the drug as an over-the-counter medication. Lester Crawford, who was acting director of the agency at the time, is now President Bush’s choice for permanent director. But the agency’s refusal to allow over-the-counter access to Plan B under Crawford’s leadership has led Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) and Patty Murray (D-Washington) to try to block the nomination. They accuse Crawford and the FDA of being motivated by ideology instead of science.

Wired

As for the research about how judiciously it is being used:

Despite widespread misinformation about emergency contraception – the so-called morning-after pill – only 3% of women’s doctors discuss Plan B with them.

The finding comes from data collected during face-to-face interviews with 7,643 women aged 15 to 44. The interviews were conducted in 2002, when emergency contraception was available only by prescription. Yet only 3% of women said their doctors discussed the issue with them.

There
was also good news from the survey. The researchers found that 73% of women who had used emergency contraception had used it only once. The finding shows that women are truly using the “morning-after pill” for emergencies, and not – as some had feared – for routine birth control.

CBS

The harm: vilifying Plan B (and the women who have needed to use it) makes women who don’t know any better very hesitant to consider it as an option. Further, it decreases the likelihood that doctors will discuss it as a viable choice with their patients. As of 2008,

Despite widespread misinformation about emergency contraception – the so-called morning-after pill – only 3% of women’s doctors discuss Plan B with them.

[. . .]

Even when women saw a gynecologist for a Pap test or pelvic exam, only 4% received emergency-contraception counseling, find University of Pittsburgh researchers Megan L. Kavanaugh, DrPH, and Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, MD.

“A lot of women, and the American public in general, are very misinformed about what emergency contraception is, how to use it, and how to access it,” Kavanaugh tells WebMD. “Yet counseling about emergency contraception really is missing from the clinical encounter, especially for young women, low-income women, and minority women.”

CBS

If they don’t know, they can’t make an educated decision. Here the Republicans are assaulting women in particular and science. Why is the battle against reason, logic, and evidence fought so enthusiastically?

More more more: Republicans kept the FDA underfunded during the Bush administration, and left everyone else to try and clean up the mess.

Acknowledging that the Food and Drug Administration is “underfunded and understaffed,” President Obama vowed in his weekly address to renew the nation’s commitment to food safety.

The President decried the current patchwork of food safety regulation, much of which was enacted around the turn of the century, as outdated and ineffective. The FDA has the capacity to inspect only about 5% of the food processing plants and warehouses. “That is a hazard to public health,” Obama said. “It is unacceptable.”

President Obama said he approached food safety “not just as your President, but as a parent.”

Meanwhile, the Senate’s top Republican tax writer, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, used the Republican weekly address to deliver a scathing attack on the Administration’s tax plans.

“[The President’s] plans fail to recognize that Americans are not an endless source of tax dollars to pay for government spending,” Grassley said, arguing that raising taxes on Americans making more than $250,000 would be devastating for small businesses.

Consumer Reports

The evidence – and the mistakes – just pile and pile, don’t they?

Long seen as the government’s premier consumer protection agency, the FDA stumbled under Bush. Recurring drug and food safety lapses came against a backdrop of shrinking budgets and long periods without a permanent leader.

[. . .]

Obama will be working with a Democratic-led Congress, including lawmakers who have written legislation to bolster import inspections.

Only a fraction of imported food is inspected now. Foreign drug manufacturing plants can go years without an FDA visit. Democrats had considered fees on industry to pay for more FDA inspectors, but could not persuade the Bush administration to go along. They expect Obama to be receptive.

[. . .]

“An Obama administration would swing the pendulum back more to protection of public health,” said William Hubbard, a retired FDA official who held top posts. “This bodes well for greater regulation in the food safety area, on imports, and on drug safety.”

MSNBC

Mandated discriminatory crap has a history in the GOP-polluted FDA, again in defiance of reason:

The American Civil Liberties Union submitted comments to the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability urging the committee to reassess the Food and Drug Administration’s policy (FDA) on blood donation by gay and bisexual men. The FDA policy, enacted in 1985, recommends that men who have had sex with another man even one time since 1977 should be banned from donating blood. In its comments, the ACLU recommended that the committee base its policy on factual evidence, rather than sexual orientation.

“The FDA should be basing its policy on facts and not stereotypes,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “If gay and bisexual donors can be screened for donation without causing risk to our nation’s blood supply, they should be. The FDA’s policy wrongly implies the mere fact of sexual activity with another man poses a risk of HIV transmission. The advisory committee must review its policy and follow science in this issue. To do otherwise would be discriminatory and unconstitutional.”

ACLU

And now, as if the FDA didn’t have enough atrocious problems, the House proposes slashing spending here too (again).

A coalition of drug makers and consumer advocates is spreading the word about the Food and Drug Administration’s role in the national economy as Republicans weigh sharp cuts to the agency. The House GOP lawmakers want to slash $400 million from the Obama’s fiscal 2011 FDA request, while the agency is seeking a 23 percent increase from fiscal 2010 to help pay for enhanced food safety regulations enacted last year. Read The Hill story.

The Hill

Education

I’m not going to go into evolution/climate change/etc again. That stuff aside, let’s focus on other things. Some of what you’ll find below involves Republican attempts to, once again, slash spending, but I feel like education deserves its own “section” in this diary.

I think it’s pretty clear that such cuts to education funding have a serious impact on science and learning in general.

Republicans, in stark contrast, have proposed unprecedented cuts to education spending in recent resolutions. Not only are Republicans ignoring what the Federal Reserve is telling us, they are ignoring what recent scores on international competitiveness demonstrate: Investments in education are the key to our economic competitiveness.

The U.S., however, is increasingly losing its competitive edge when it comes to preparing our K-16 students in critical subjects like science, technology, engineering and math. In these subjects, our students consistently rank near the bottom in educational achievement among the world’s 30 richest nations, according to the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores.

We are being out-competed because we are being out-invested, exacerbating the mismatch in our country between the skills needed for high-growth job sectors and our students’ skill sets.

Huffington Post

Attacks on our teachers, attacks on education… are clearly attacks on science. It’s frustrating to see the ways Republicans subvert education, nationally and on a state level. They seem to resent education, and especially public education. The GOP regularly attacks teachers’ unions and tries to hit public schooling

Ugh.

The Republicans are intent on spreading stupidity and glorifying the ignorati. In this case, science is just one positive thing among many that are under attack.

“Magnifying Uncertainty” and Twisting the Rhetoric

Credit for this phrase goes to Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science. I do not have an endless amount of money for books and have not read it, but I have come across the phrase. A review of the book gives a brief explanation:

A key GOP tactic, Mooney says, has been “magnifying uncertainty” – finding a few dissenting voices on the scientific fringe and calling for “more research” to forestall action – a tactic the tobacco industry used for decades, he says.

CS Monitor

We’ve seen this time and time again with topics I’ve already touched on. Republicans hunt down a few outlying studies, and even if they don’t use them to try and prove fallacious claims, they use them as a basis for fomenting doubt. Tactics like this just create confusion. Not everyone is as passionate about politics or as dedicated to digging up the truth as many of the people on this site – and some simply don’t have the time or the energy or the will for it – so they rely on the brief glimpses of news they can catch on TV quickly. The distortion of reality implemented by the GOP is, in this case, quite crafty and surreptitious. Casting doubt on scientific findings – and using that doubt to sow uncertainty that aids them in the quest to halt or delay important action/legislation – is a foul tactic to execute. It takes advantage of the ill-informed, and it’s a disgusting practice that Republicans perform with finesse.

And in the same vein, Republicans’ frequent attempts to discredit scientific findings by twisting the rhetoric confounds much of the public. This is also something pointed out by Mooney (make no mistake, I will be investing in the book when I have adequate funds). They call legitimate research “junk science” and seek to convince people that evidence is not really evidence. More appalling still, the GOP calls its own truly junk science “sound science,” as if it is some sort of authority. There is even a website by that very name (junkscience.com – don’t go there, it’s just GOP propaganda).

Frackin’ LIARS.

Jeez, it just never ends.

No really, it never ends.

I could go on forever if my fingers and my brain weren’t so incredibly tired. What you see above… these transgressions against science and reason… are just the most recent examples. I haven’t covered a hundredth of it. For those of us who value evidence, logic, and truth, the beliefs, tactics, and policies of the GOP are an abomination. Blasphemy. A crime against the values of knowledge and information and education. A perversion of reality and so many of the things we hold dear.

Let there be no question of it: Your outrage is righteous and DUE.

HUGE Note: If you appreciated the tremendous amount of research that went into this diary…

Please give a MASSIVE thanks to my buddy Kysen.

His assistance with the research was absolutely invaluable. I overwhelmed myself a bit by undertaking this diary, and he lightened the load considerably. I have considered him my “faithful research assistant” for years now, for he is a master of teh googles, and I cannot match his skillz. Thanks for all your help, K.

(Also posted on dKos. Feel free to dry by and say hi in orange too!])


7 comments

  1. They want to cut spending so they target programs like needle exchanges that have a tremendous return on investment. I ran those numbers from Australia through the calculator and it comes to $18 for each dollar invested. The same is true of IRS spending. I believe I’ve read that is around $16-$17 per dollar invested. They want to cut $593 million from the IRS budget. That would reduce funding by $9.5 billion dollars. Some savings. The list of spending cuts is filled with examples like that. Cutting the FDA and EPA will come back to bite us through increased health care costs that will far exceed any savings from the cuts. At the same time they want to cut $1.75 billion from the CDC and NIH. I look at those cuts and can only wonder whether these people are stupid, malicious, or just plain crazy.

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