Government

Mon, 2013-07-22 14:54Kevin Grandia
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Harper's Audit-the-Enemy Strategy Fulfills Nixon's Dream

Harper's Enemy List part of Nixon style strategy

Last week it was revealed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office created an “enemy list” to include in briefing books for newly appointed Cabinet members. 

Pundits were quick to point out that US President Richard Nixon also had such a list of enemies that his office maintained.

However, the enemy list was only a small part of a much larger strategy that Nixon dreamed up and, as history shows, he was never able to fully execute his plan. Unfortunately for the many Canadians on Harper's list, the Prime Minister and his office are now fulfilling Nixon's dream. 

Nixon's list was dubbed the “opponents list” by his political staffers and was part of a larger strategy they called the “Political Enemies Project.” This disturbing strategy came to light during the Senate Committee hearings looking into the Watergate scandal that eventually forced President Nixon to resign in disgrace in August, 1974.

Fri, 2013-06-28 08:00Carol Linnitt
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Artist Franke James Live and (Actually) Uncensored (Since, Apparently, She Refuses to Be)

Franke James is Your Fault art

In 2011, Toronto-based writer, artist and environmental activist Franke James was asked by Croatian non-profit Nektarina to feature her artwork on an European tour. Unsurprisingly, James agreed, only to have the tour cancelled when the Canadian embassy in Croatia withdrew funding that it denied ever giving Nektarina, and made the non-profit aware that James “speaks against the Canadian government.”

James was not one to be silenced, as her new book reveals. Banned on the Hill: A True Story about Dirty Oil and Government Censorship catalogues the entire ordeal of being blacklisted by Harper’s government for speaking out against the tar sands, and puts the paper trail Canadian diplomats left of their censoring ways on display.

DeSmog: You’ve been spreading a message of environmental awareness that runs counter to the Harper government’s pro-oil stance since 2003. Did you have any inkling that something like the government’s squashing of your European tour might eventually happen?

Franke James: No! Who would ever think you could get into trouble for writing to the Prime Minister asking that we make polluters pay? Is this Canada or the Kremlin?

Tue, 2013-06-11 13:00Farron Cousins
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D.C. Court Rules Against Environmental Transparency, Threatening Public Health and Democracy

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that trade deals can be exempted from federal disclosure laws. The case revolved around a classified document related to an FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) that contained information about environmental and public health and safety concerns.

The suit was filed by EarthJustice and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), with CIEL President Carroll Muffett issuing the following statement after the ruling:  “It is with great irony that at a time when reports about government intrusion into individual privacy are escalating by the day, the U.S. government would go to such lengths to protect the confidentiality of its trade negotiations—the terms of which will have real impacts on its citizens. By denying the public access to these negotiations, the US has created a fundamental barrier to the development of democracy. Most troubling, we have already seen the US aggressively pushing information in a similar black box in other trade negotiations, like the recently announced Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union.

EarthJustice has more:

Thu, 2013-05-23 05:30John Mashey
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FOIA Facts 4 - George Mason Takes The Money And Breaks The Rules

New Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) replies (1, 2, and 3) expose worse misbehavior at George Mason University. GMU badly mishandled simple plagiarism complaints, including one on a Federally-funded paper, retracted in May 2011, finally ruled as misconduct in 2012. Federal rules required notifications to several agencies earlier, but FOIA requests found no trace of any: Army 1, Army 2, GMU 1, GMU 2.

GMU gets $129M+/year in Federal grant funds, generally takes 30% for itself, but breaks rules.

A Nature editorial criticized GMU's handling, the Chronicle of Higher Education covered the retraction, Science discussed the process. USA Today's Dan Vergano later wrote in February 2012:

''”We took these charges very seriously,” (GMU Provost Peter) Stearns said, in a telephone interview, adding that the university will forward the investigation reports to federal authorities. The National Institutes of Health and the Department of the Army supported the 2008 study.'

Stearns had already written falsehoods to his own faculty, as detailed in See No Evil, Speak Little Truth, Break Rules, Blame Others, §6. GMU has many respectable faculty members, but the GMU administration ran a bizarre process far outside academic norms, GMU's own rules and Federal rules.

Was this just total incompetence by the administration of a 32,000-student university? Or was some part played by the powerful influence at GMU of Charles Koch and his associates, as discussed in See No Evil §A.5, §A.6?

In any case, Edward Wegman was appointed in Fall 2012 to a 3-year term on the GMU College of Science Promotion and Tenure Committee.

Then, in February 2013 GMU modified its already-opaque and complaint-discouraging process to be even more so.

Tue, 2013-05-21 05:30John Mashey
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FOIA Facts 2 - No Pro Bono - Federal Funds Mis-Used For Wegman Report And Much More

Wegman's mis-use of Army funds, irrelevant work outweighed relevant

As begun in FOIA Facts 1, Ed Wegman and Rep. Joe Barton repeatedly called the Wegman Report “pro bono”* but Wegman and Said later claimed it as work done for existing Federal  grants paid quarterly.  In response to Dan Vergano FOIA request  Wegman and Said each said the work was pro bono, years after claiming for credit it and much other irrelevant work. Together, they “charged” 48 inappropriate works to grants they effectively treated as slush funds.

Wegman was funded by Army Research Office (ARO) grant 0447, $217K for “Analytical and Graphical Methods for Streaming Data with Applications to Netcentric Warfare.” He claimed credit for 75 papers and talks, listed in the thumbnail at left or full-sized in Sheet §0.1.

Dark blue shows fit (possibly relevant) papers, but almost all acknowledged earlier grants and were published or mostly done before 0447. Wegman improperly claimed them again in late 2008, perhaps because he had done so little new relevant work in peer-reviewed research journals. Ignoring them leaves just cyan (light blue) talks, outnumbered by grant-unfit works: green for alcoholism, red for attempts to discredit climate science and orange for miscellaneous others unrelated to his or Said's grants.

The chronology matches well - fit papers essentially vanished after 2005, as Wegman plunged into climate and worked on alcoholism with Said, who claimed the Wegman Report for her grant. A 91-page report on unfamiliar topics and Congressional hearings had to consume much more effort than anything else. Even by simple counts, more than half of each person's works were inappropriate, but the grant time spent inappropriately was almost certainly larger. 

Lamar Smith (R-TX) might want to investigate obvious funds misuse before trying to meddle with the National Science Foundation.

“Congress has a responsibility to review questionable research paid for by hard-working American taxpayers. … Public funds should be used to benefit the American people.”

Mon, 2013-05-20 06:00John Mashey
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FOIA Facts 1 - More Misdeeds By Ed Wegman, Yasmin Said, George Mason University

The Wegman Report was not pro bono, and George Mason violated Federal rules

New Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) replies have exposed more misdeeds by Professor Edward Wegman and Yasmin Said at George Mason University (GMU),  closely involved with the Kochs, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and many others known for attacks on climate science. This post reviews background and attaches FOIA files that unearthed evidence for:

-pervasive mis-use of Federal funds for inappropriate work,
-plagiarism or falsification in documents used to seek grants or credit,
-GMU violations of Federal rules for reporting misconduct, atop an already-absurd procedure.

Readers unfamiliar with the history might first read the background below the fold and then return here for a summary of the posts to follow in this series:

FOIA Facts 2 - Wegman and Said used existing grants from the Army Research Office and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for efforts on the 2006 Wegman Report, showing “pro bono” claims made to Congress as false. That was not the only funds mis-use. Together, they claimed 48 inappropriate papers or talks, easily consuming more than half their effort. Grants of $492K produced attacks on climate science  and much foreign travel, but almost nothing in peer-reviewed research journals.

FOIA Facts 3 - More plagiarism and falsification are documented in 13 total works by Wegman and/or Said, including a few new ones and at least 7 claimed for grant credit. Wegman also wrote a half-million-dollar grant proposal, but evidence shows that roughly half the text was copy-paste-edit plagiarism. Luckily for Wegman, it was rejected.

FOIA Facts 4 exposes worse misbehavior at GMU, which badly mishandled simple plagiarism complaints, including one on a Federally-funded paper. That was retracted in May 2011 and finally ruled as misconduct in February 2012. Federal rules required multiple notifications to several agencies, but FOIA requests found no trace of them. GMU seemed to ignore Federal rules, but perhaps other funding and influence are more important.

In any case,  Wegman was appointed in Fall 2012 to a 3-year term on the GMU College of Science Promotion and Tenure Committee.

Tue, 2013-03-26 16:34Carol Linnitt
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Indigenous Rights are...Hey Look! A Panda!

Yesterday hundreds of indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians stood on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to greet the Nishiyuu walkers - a group of First Nations marchers who have gathered along the 1500 kilometre route between Whapmagoostui in Quebec's James Bay Treaty area and the nation's capital.

The youngest walker to speak on behalf of the group was an 11-year old girl who said she was marching on behalf of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper chose to dismiss the event, traveling instead to Toronto's Pearson Airport where he, along with his wife, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and a high-school band, welcomed two panda bears on loan to Canadian zoos from China.

Sun, 2013-03-03 12:00Farron Cousins
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The Environmental Impact Of The Sequester Cuts

The failure of elected officials in Washington, D.C. to reach a deal on the “sequester” led to an automatic $85 billion cut to the federal budget on March 1st.  And, unfortunately, environmental initiatives and other projects were the first to be placed on the chopping block.

Environmental programs within the United States – everything from wildlife refuges to clean air and water programs – have already been grossly underfunded for years, and the sequester cuts are only going to make things much, much worse for our environment.

One program that was gearing up to be cut less than 24 hours after sequester took effect was the Bureau of Labor Statistics green jobs survey.  This program allowed the administration to track the creation and tally of jobs within the clean energy and other “green” sectors, a program that many Republicans in Washington had wanted to cut from day one. 

But those cuts are just the beginning.  Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that the mandatory cuts are going to severely hurt investment and research into lightweight automobile construction and fuel cell technology, investments that were aimed at helping increase automobile fuel efficiency and reducing our gasoline consumption.  Those programs will now have to wait to receive funding.

Chu said that the cuts the Energy Department is facing would significantly slow down the country’s quest to become energy independent, a goal that 64% of Americans (from both sides of the political aisle) favor.

Thu, 2013-02-14 11:43Carol Linnitt
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Science Silenced: US Scientist Caught in Canadian Muzzle

What a difference a decade makes - especially when it comes to government-directed communications policies regarding science, and especially when you're in Canada. 

In 2003 a Canadian-American research collaboration, involving scientists from US universities and Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), began in the Eastern Arctic to track oceanic conditions and ice flow in the Nares Strait.

Thu, 2013-02-07 23:04Kevin Grandia
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One Question John Kerry Should Ask John Baird To Gauge Canada's Sincerity on Bilateralism

Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet on Friday with his Canadian counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. In any such bilateral meeting, it is paramount that each participant trust the words of their counterpart. After all, when it comes to the world of diplomacy, where wars are settled and treaties are signed, there's little more than words and trust. 

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