Bush administration establishes vetting process for scientists to be invited to WHO conferences.

Looks like BushCo is once again trying to exert control over scientists who might disagree with the administration’s policies by ordering that “government scientists must be approved by a senior political appointee before they can participate in meetings convened by the World Health Organization.” In other words, only scientists who have been approved by an administration politician will be allowed to participate in WHO conferences. Previously the WHO would directly invite individual scientists to participate, but in April a top official from the Health and Human Services Department asked the WHO to begin routing requests to the department’s secretary for review. The WHO has so far refused to comply with the request citing harm to “the independence of international scientific deliberations.”

Yahoo! News – White House Tries to Rein In Scientists

The letter to Aitken declaring the new vetting policy was signed by William R. Steiger, special assistant to Thompson. He came to Washington with Thompson from Wisconsin, and is the son of a congressman and the godson of former President George H.W. Bush.

“Except under very limited circumstances, U.S. government experts do not and cannot participate in WHO consultations in their individual capacity,” Steiger wrote. Civil service and other regulations “require HHS experts to serve as representatives of the U.S. government at all times and advocate U.S. government policies.”

The letter asserts that “the current practice in which the WHO invites specific HHS officials by name to serve in these capacities has not always resulted in the most appropriate selections.”

In other words, we’re not happy about the fact that some of the American scientists invited in the past have advocated opinions contrary to official Bush policies simply because they felt the scientific evidence didn’t support the administration’s claims. So we want to implement this new process to ensure that we only send scientists who agree with us, regardless of what the facts might actually be, to any future meetings.

To his credit Rep. Henry A. Waxman complained in a letter to Thompson that the new policy “politicizes the process of providing the expert advice of U.S. scientists to the international community.”

Thompson’s spokesman, Tony Jewell, called Waxman’s criticism “seriously misguided.”

“No one knows better than HHS who the experts are and who can provide the most up-to-date and expert advice,” Jewell said. “The World Health Organization does not know the best people to talk to, but HHS knows. If anyone thinks politics will interfere with Secretary Thompson’s commitment to improve health in every corner of the world, they are sadly mistaken.”

Ah! The old, trust-us-we-know-better-than-you-do argument. Now why would anyone think that a Bush administration political appointee (Thompson) would ever allow politics to override science when determining which experts to send to the WHO? Just because the administration has already demonstrated it’s willingness to dismiss scientists who contradict their official positions from the presidential advisory commission? Just because over 60 prominent scientists accused the administration of “misrepresenting and suppressing scientific knowledge for political purposes” recently? What do they know?! They weren’t vetted by the HHS!

Remember kids: It’s not a good scientific opinion unless it carries the HHS Seal of Approval!

12 thoughts on “Bush administration establishes vetting process for scientists to be invited to WHO conferences.

  1. Is it just me or does this smack mightily of the “Political Officer”/Party approval in the ol’ USSR?

  2. Any scientific idea must fight for its survival,
    and win over other people.

    Similarly, as Ralph Nader stated
    “There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship”

  3. Control of the message is everything to these people. Somewhere in the middle of the anthrax scare (ca Oct 2001), Thompson reined in the CDC and NIH by not allowing them to hold independent press conferences.

    I lived in the DC area at the time and was apprehensive about checking my mailbox for new mail. I really didn’t appreciate the extra time in releasing and potentially filtering of public health information.

  4. It seems like this man is trying to build up as much resentment as possible in as little amount of time as possible.

    In this day and and age, information will certainly be spread throughout the scientific community with or without his ‘blessing’.  All he is effectively doing is slowing down the brainstorming process and progress towards scientific solutions.

    deadscot, stalag 28, aka: Texas

  5. I believe that (1)he is just being consistent, (2)that he believes that he will be re-elected (and, therefore has no deadline), and (3)he is generally clueless about the harm his policies do.

  6. He’s just being consistent?  With what?  The WHO never had to go through this before.  If you mean being consistent with his policy to supress scientific study that is contridictory to his political agenda then I would agree.

    I agree with you that Bush does indeed believe that he will be re-elected and therefore feels no time constraints for his short-sightedness.

    Despite how this man comes off in TV interviews he is not clueless as to how his policies impact the world.  He merely sees the world as a capital gains marketplace and he’s a no load broker.

  7. Probably trying to keep these folks out…

    “When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions,” charges a document signed by 60 scientists in an unprecedented joint effort by the leaders of the nation’s science establishment.

    They are calling for an independent congressional investigation of federal science-advisory policies.

    Signers include 20 Nobel Prize winners and 19 recipients of the National Medal of Science, awarded by the president for outstanding contributions in the field. Nobel winners include former National Institutes of Health chief Harold Varmus to pioneering chemist Richard Smalley. Medal winners include H-bomb designer Richard Garwin and Harvard physicist Norman Ramsey, both advisers to Republican administrations.

  8. Bush’s manipulation of science is, as far as I am concerned, the worst thing he’s done, and that’s saying something with this yahoo. As pointed out above, it certainly smacks of old Soviet “political officers” controlling the message, only with less competence. Actually, it reminds of that screwball Iraqi information minister who was insisting that the infidels were in full retreat while shooting was audible in the street outside.


  9. Bush’s manipulation of science is, as far as I am concerned, the worst thing he’s done

    Yup. Once the US acquires a reputation for politically correct science (if it isn’t there already), there will be a very damaging ripple effect.

  10. An update…

    Scientists horrified by Bush’s Bad Science

    What started as a group of 62 scientists fighting what they saw as Bad Science being practiced by the Bush administration has now bloated to a body with more than 4,000 whitecoats calling for change. The signers include 48 Nobel laureates, 62 National Medal of Science recipients and 127 members of the National Academy of Sciences.

    I’m with the whitecoats!

  11. Remember, these people think science is trumped by religion.  If the very basis of the physical sciences is flawed, as they believe, why should they allow scientist to testify about anything?

  12. Bush has contiuously insulated himself and the goverment against independent information that might run contrary to his/the administration’s views. Of course, all really good decisions are made this way. rolleyes rolleyes

    This is the political version of sticking your fingers in your ears and singing,“Nah nah nah nah nah. . . I can’t hear you!”

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