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NASA Space Censorship Government Politics

NASA Public-Affairs Appointee Resigns in Disgrace 698

belmolis writes "George C. Deutsch, who tried to muzzle top NASA climate scientist James Hansen and ordered NASA web designers to add the word 'theory' to every mention of the Big Bang, has resigned. The New York Times reports that NASA declines to discuss the reasons for his resignation, but that it came the same day that Texas A&M University, from which Deutsch claimed on his resume to have graduated, revealed that he had attended the university but did not complete his degree." The New York Times reports it today, but as of yesterday, it was the Times that had unquestioningly passed along the falsehood of Deutsch's graduation, and it was the blog Scientific Activist whose investigation revealed he'd left before graduating to work on the Bush reelection campaign. For more on the 24-year-old political appointee's interesting viewpoints, see World O' Crap; on Monday, we covered the anger over his attempts to squelch science -- something that, sadly, Jim Hansen has gotten used to.
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NASA Public-Affairs Appointee Resigns in Disgrace

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  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @09:39AM (#14668820)
    Let this be a perfect example of why cronyism is not a good practice.

    Now that this guy is found out to be a fraud, it begs the question as to how many other people are holding positions that they neither deserve nor are qualified to hold?
    And how many more qualified individuals were passed over because of cronyism?

    The US Government should do a resume audit to find out who actually went to college and worked where they say they did.
    But, of course, this will never happen.
  • Re:The Big Bang (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arkanes ( 521690 ) <> on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @09:48AM (#14668877) Homepage
    I'm not an astrophysicist (I can't even spell it!) and I'm not even an interested amateur, but the blog linked from the previous covererage of this story said that the Big Bang model has been extensively proven out by observation, and while the origin of the bang itself is unknown, what happened during and immediately after the Bang is considered extremely solid and proven.
  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @09:49AM (#14668884) Journal
    Don't forget the 10,000 member of the clergy [] who signed an online petition explicitly stating that Intelligent Design is a religious idea trying to be passed off as science and should not be taught.

    For as much as I like to harp on the religious right (all religions, not just christianity), it is refreshing to see people who understand that science is science and religion is religion and there is no problem with the two co-existing so long as neither tries to intrude onto the others territory. Though it is interesting to note that religion has asked science to help solve at least one of its mysteries, the shroud of Turin.

    Every time I hear someone say, "But it's only a theory, not a fact" I cringe and then immediately ask them if they have a problem with the Theory of Electromagnetism or the Theory of General Relativity since they too are "just theories" and not facts. The usual response is a blank stare as their mind tries to not assplode from having to defend such a ridiculous statement.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @09:52AM (#14668905)
    I went to Texas A&M. I saw the following Progression:
    -People who couldn't do engineering changed majors to Computer Science
    -People who couldn't do CS changed majors to Business
    -People who couldn't do business changed majors to Journalism

    It looks like this guy couldn't even do journalism.
  • 24 years old? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @09:57AM (#14668940)
    Sorry I missed this the first time this story came out, but the guy who's muzzling scientists at NASA is a 24-year old stooge? Talk about adding insult to injury. The only thing that would have made this more humiliating is if the guy had failed to graduate from Oral Roberts University or Bob Jones University.
  • by andreMA ( 643885 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @10:24AM (#14669125)
    Disgrace and shame is better than folks like this deserve
    It's certainly not as good as the taxpayers deserve, however. Deutsch committed a fraud and should be required to repay his salary to the US Treasury, with interest and penalties. Never happen, of course.

    I'd favor a few months in prison too, but he's already cost us enough. Maybe a few hundred hours of community service... say, picking up litter in the NASA parking lots. I imagine that there's a proportion of scientists there - just as there are a proportion of any profession - who would be more than happy to help keep him busy.

    "There's a nice bit of trash over there, sonny..."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @10:28AM (#14669168)
    Deutsch is only a minor (and obvious) part of a larger problem with the NASA public-affairs branch. Recently the HQ office has been asserting much more control over what goes out, and attempting to add political spin to everything. I know -- I work with them regularly to get science stories from NASA-funded projects into the media. That job has become much more difficult since the 2004 elections, and Deutsch is not the main reason.
  • Re:Appointees (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jdev ( 227251 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @10:50AM (#14669322)
    "In the market of government, we don't really have much to control."

    The most important control we have is our vote. When politicians make egregious appointments like this, it's our responsibility to let them know our disagreement at the ballots (and the polls).

    The main problem is accountability. I've seen several posts about cronyism patterns in the administration, but about half of the US population doesn't seem to care. Hell, the press hasn't even bothered to pick this story up. Until people are outraged by this kind of abuse, it will continue to go on.

    And seriously, look at what brought this guy's resignation. Deutsch's job was to help explain science issues to the public. This same person was limiting important scientific discussion on major issues, such as global warming. So what brought him down? He lied on his resume. That's like bringing down Capone for tax evasion.

    So what do we do about it? Write a letter to your congressman. [] Write to your newspaper to discuss the issue. Talk to friends. Just do something.

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @11:13AM (#14669485) Journal
    Not that it really excuses lying, but you're absolutely right. The underlying problem is the belief that a college degree is some sort of basic requirement for having the ability to do a job. Much to the chagrin of many people paying off huge student loans, it's simply not!

    The Slashdot story yesterday about new govt. hiring guidelines going into effect will just make the problem even worse. If resumes are expected to contain every single requirement listed in a "want ad" - guess what? Most of them will end up doing so, whether or not the candidates really know those specific things.

    I think in the specific cases cited here, it's mostly a matter of our president appointing these people to their positions because he already knows them and thinks they're in line with his agenda. (Heck, who's to say he didn't talk with them behind closed doors, informing them that "a college degree is, ahem, required, before I can give you this position - so you might want to, uh, put something down just for the sake of completeness...."?)

    But you're quite right. There's a lot of discrimination out there towards folks who chose alternate paths to "get out of high-school, jump into college". It seems sometimes, the only ones who manage to overcome it are the ones who build their own big businesses -- and then, all of a sudden, the college-degreed world is very interested in what they have to say. (EG. Bill Gates)
  • Erwin soon landed a gig as the top Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) official managing the finances of Iraq's civilian security forces...

    All this administration needs (and probably wants) are warm bodies it can manipulate. These eager young kids are a dime a dozen, and can be replaced at the drop of a hat once they're exposed. Just look at the amount if work it took to expose and out the NASA guy: one week of intense media pressure. How many hundreds...thousands more are there dispersed through the government?
  • by DreamingReal ( 216288 ) <> on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @11:44AM (#14669702) Homepage
    The moment you say Law people assume it means an absolute fact, which, in a sense, it is. However, it is still a theory in the sense that it makes a prediction and as far as we know holds true but it is only for one specific event whereas a theory describes a series of events.

    Coincidentally, this is the quote of the day when I logged into Google -

    "In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms."

        - Stephen Jay Gould

  • Re: Theory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) * on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @11:44AM (#14669703)
    > I suspect, in fact, that even the intelligent design crowd would want to disown this clown. Their best hope of avoiding widespread recognition that they're creationists under a false flag is to pretend that it's all about biology.

    They've pretty much given up the pretense since the Dover trial. At they've been posting links to editorial after editorial where some ID supporter falls down and claims the ruling was religious persecution, or that the Establishment Clause shouldn't prevent public schools from teaching religious beliefs an a par with science, or that the Constitution is just a piece of paper, or anything at all - other than an attempt to shore up their position with facts.

    > It's a scientific quarrel with Darwin. It's about evolution being inadequate. Once the intelligent design flag is raised over cosmology too, it becomes very clear what the name of the intelligent designer is supposed to be.

    As if it wasn't already clear.
  • Re:Can we please... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @12:13PM (#14669929) Homepage
    The point is that Deutsch is an adult who deserves to bear the full consequences of his dishonesty.

    Well, someone deserves to bear the consequences for the dishonesty, that much is true.

    But since he didn't interview for the position, it's not like he lied on his resume to get the job -- the job was handed to him.

    The cynical bastard in me says that someone lied about his resume and qualifications, but that it is equally likely that the people who gave him the job may have coached him to pad his resume so that if anyone ever asked, he would appear to have more qualifications.

    Do you really think that the people appointing him to the friggin' position didn't know he was unqualified? Do you suspect they cared?

    I wouldn't be surprised if some senior staffers have been padding a whole bunch of appointees resumes so it sounds like qualified candidates are being appointed to the post. Lets face it, you get a politically appointed job because someone important likes you and either owes you a favour or wants to stack the deck for themselves.

    Simply crying foul at the one who's resume was padded might leave out a lot of people who are otherwise culpable. Me, I think Bush should take personal responsibility for every underqualified flunky he's put into jobs.
  • Re:The Big Bang (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mav[LAG] ( 31387 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @12:24PM (#14670039)
    Excepting the miracles?
    So you're saying the Bible hasn't been proven wrong except for the places that it's been proven wrong that don't count?

    And your proof that miracles don't happen is ... what exactly? That looks like an a priori assumption to me. It is impossible to do formal criticism of the New Testament documents and other corroborating literature without coming to the conclusion that Jesus, whatever people thought of him, was a miracle worker of some sort. The onus is on the sceptic to come up with an alternative explanation that holds water for more than 30 seconds.

    Read the book "Misquoting Jesus : the story behind who changed the Bible and why" by Bart D. Ehrman and you'll find a whole bunch of places that the Bible is "wrong" or at least added onto by scribes.
    Frex: that story of Jesus telling the mob to "let he who is without sin, cast the first stone" was not in the original texts.

    Given that there are over twenty thousand full or partial copies of the New Testament in existence dated from very early to somewhat later, we know more about how they evolved than any other ancient literature in history. They've survived intact. I can think of two cases where scribes have added a passage - the end of Mark and the passage in John you quote above (hardly a "whole bunch of places") - and all translations that I've seen clearly mark them as not being in the original manuscripts. I know nothing about Bart D Ehrman but if he's trying to claim that scribes were involved in widespread modification of the NT documents, then he deserves to be the laughing stock of experts in ancient documents.

  • IAWTP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @12:25PM (#14670055) Homepage Journal
    During the runup to the '04 elections, I checked out the websites of all the Democratic presidential hopefuls. Kerry and Edwards were the ones who immediately turned me off because they sounded just like any other goddamned politician telling people what they wanted to hear, and they spoke in that English dialect peculiar to politicians and marketdroids. On the strength of what their sites said, I favored Dean and wossname, that just-retired Army general. Kucinich was also good, but too out there to be electable.

    And yet, K & E got the best ratings in the primaries. This tells me that either 1) The Democrats who vote in primaries are clueless, or 2) Enough Republicans turned out to vote for what they knew were the least-palatable Democratic candidates.
  • by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @12:42PM (#14670213) Homepage Journal
    I live in a conservative area of .us that voted for Bush in the last election. Reading the loony pages^W^Wthe letters to the editor, there is a growing anger among the people against Fuckwit for what he's doing to this country. There are still people defending him, though; usually the types who spout Bible verses, homophobia, and/or liberal-bashing.

    I think that it's partially due to people being so attached to their worldviews that they can't do the mental gymnastics to change them. There's one individual who says liberals-this and liberals-that in every letter and yet never responds to people who call him on his inconsistencies. In his book _Prometheus Rising_ Robert Anton Wilson discusses his theory of "reality tunnels". See [].

    There was another person, a former co-worker, who said that whatever "his commander-in-chief" (he wasn't military, just a wannabe) said was good enough for him. Another ex-cw said he voted for Bush in '04 because he didn't take the time to learn enough about the other guy and didn't want to change Presidents in the middle of things.

    Other people just feel terribly foolish for voting him in, but are too embarrassed to admit they're wrong and so keep up their overt support.

    n.b.: I'm not a liberal, just a libertarian.

  • Big Bang is a theory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rspress ( 623984 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @12:55PM (#14670325) Homepage
    The big bang is a theory but not for the reasons the PR guy mentions. There are a few problems coming to light with the big bang theory that scientists are running into such as galactic clumping and the early moments of the big bang. Also what they are seeing at the far ends of the universe are not what they expected with a big bang theory. Until they figure out the unified field theory...see the word theory in there, they will not have an answer for the big bang theory. It may turn out to be a snapped cosmic string theory.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @12:55PM (#14670332)
    Wake up fellow. New technologie make it even easier to lie as one can simply repeatedly swamp channels with the same false statements, with just enough minor variants to keep the lie alive in the media. Keeping the flock in a continuously agitated state is what it is all about. Just ask Rush Limpblagh and the oxycontin gang.

    Its only the repetition that makes it difficult to get away with lying. Look at the WMD lie for example, it has only been recently, with the constant repetition of the exposure of the lie, that it has been finally been recognized by the majority of the public as a lie. Of course, many are still unaware of the extent of the deception used to take us to war.

    As for Mr. Deutch, he is one of Karl Rove's top operatives. Insiders already are blabbering that he is being assigned new duties in this administrations misinformation campaign. Some insiders rumor that he will be involved in the current unchristian attacks now underway against Hillary Clinton and help take it to new levels, looking into her past sexual history. Stuff like that that is the hallmark of the Rove Whitehouse and they know the importance of repetition in starting the groundwork for such systematic lying campaigns early. Some close to these insiders say that the new antichristian emphasis will make John Kerry's swiftboat problems look like child's play. By cynically going anti-christian they will be able to make meaner and more vitriolic attacks without being held back by the need to conform to the commandment that "thou shall not bear false witness".

  • Re:Appointees (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ppanon ( 16583 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:06PM (#14670428) Homepage Journal
    Corporations are nothing but large groups of people voluntarily supplying one-another in a group moving in the same direction. Corporations are 100% voluntary. Try getting a job at the local DMV and see how little it has to do with the reality of business.

    I'm honestly starting to think that the issue is more one of size than one of public/private. You can get companies that are just as inefficient as government, or worse, if network effects or other high barriers to entry make them into natural monopolies (even if locally so). For examples see: Ma Bell, Standard Oil, railroad companies during the robber baron era. Once an organization gets to a certain size, a bureaucracy develops to manage it. That lets management get disconnected from the core business and allows incompetents and self-interested empire-builders to find niches.

    I'd prefer to see for-gain companies that I know are out to gain something from dealing with me than government that uses "for the children" and "for your safety" as a front to their cronyism.

    In private enterprise, the primary motivation is to separate the customer from his money (without necessarily providing adequate value if anti-competitive activities can be used to limit the customer's options). The people who work as civil servants usually don't do it for the money; motivation instead usually consists of work/financial security or a desire "to serve the public". Those who fall into the latter motivational category aren't usually the problem. It's those who want the work/financial security and resent the lower pay they trade off for it that can become the source of corruption. However the profit motive for corruption is just as strong, if not more, in the private sector.

    So I view with heavy skepticism claims by people that privatizing something provided by the government will make it all better. Yeah, temporarily, it may make it more efficient. But it's the long run that gets you. To me, it's about as believable as the fundamentalists (Christian, Islamic, Communist, whatever) who believe that having believers run the government will get rid of corruption. Those who seek power to exploit it will work their way through any power structure. Public, private, secular, religious, it doesn't matter. It's the institutions responsible for detecting corruption and the ability to replace those people when they are identified that helps keep corruption down to a minimum.

    The reason why there may be more corruption today than in the recent past is because the institutions that are supposed to expose government corruption have themselves been corrupted. In the US, the press is no longer doing its job of watching the watchers because they have been bought out by moneyed interests. The GAO is trying to keep things under control but the ultimate control is the voters, and we can't do our job if the press doesn't give us the information we need to make the right decisions.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @01:42PM (#14670783)
    The way he thinks strikes me as the thoughts of a 72 year old religous fanatic who thinks the world is going to hell because it isn't as religious as he is.

    It does not seem a young person (and yes, 24 is young) could possible hold these viewpoints. And someone who went to a university to learn critical thinking yet?

    Or is this a case of "I'll say anything to get power from Bush"?
  • Re: Shroud of Turin (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pulse2600 ( 625694 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @04:40PM (#14672482)
    Um, I am Catholic and no not pay money for forgiveness, that has been free at least since Vatican II, maybe even before that.

    Yes we have physical representations of religious figures, artwork and such, but no Catholic I know believes a statue of Mary has some sort of power, any reverence expressed towards an "idol" - as you call it - is not directed towards the physical item...simply a means of outward expression of one's feeling of devotion, faith, respect, etc. Many people simply consider this kind of expression a beautiful action, not worshipping a statue.

    Mary is definately not God and no Catholic claims her to be otherwise. However some people find personal strength in reflecting on Mary or the saints, angels, and the like...they say "well Mary helped me through this" or "St Francis helped me through that" or "My guardian angel protected me from those other things" what really happens is that they have found strength and guidance in their reflection on these people, through prayer or otherwise. Prayer is not always a worship thing but can be more of a meditation on the subject or content of the prayer as usually one can clear their mind and focus on the content and meaning of the prayer. People call it "praying to some saint or for some thing" but when you get down to it I don't really think people understand what is really happening when they do...but that is ok because I think God understands that even if these people think and say they pray "to" a saint, etc that they really are not doing that.

    About marriage and priests/nuns, the bible does say something about that: (from 1 Corinthians 7):

    "An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs--how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world--how he can please his wife-- and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world--how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. "

    I think the official Catholic translation uses God instead of Lord, but the quote is pretty much the same - this is one of the ideas behind the reason for unmarried priests/nuns. The Catholic church does follow what the Bible says, the issue is how different denominations of Christianity interpret what the Bible actually means.

    If a priest or nun is having issues maintaining their celibacy, or even worse - finding a very improper outlet in parish children, then they should find help or leave/be ejected from religious line of work. There is nothing wrong with the concept of unmarried priests/nuns, however most Catholics do agree that what is going on with priests now is not a good thing and would like to see a more heavy handed do not make so many assumptions about what mainstream Catholics believe, cause just like anything, the extremists and fundies in any walk of life will always make the most noise and draw the most attention and appear to be the majority when in fact they are not, and most priests do not represent what people outside the Catholic faith perceieve them to represent. You know the Pope supports Evolution? Maybe not in the Godless, secular view that an atheist would take, but he does take a pro-evolution position. My personal view is that the Bible and science are both correct concerning how everything was created. They do not conflict with each other. And you know what? No one I know understands how I came to that conclusion even when I explain it to them.
  • by slightlyspacey ( 799665 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2006 @06:57PM (#14673548)
    I have two points:

    First, politicalisation of science has been going on since the dawn of time. No, it's not right, but it happens and will continue to happen. Too often research has not been guided by the scientific method but rather by the WBCTTCIWWTCTGF method ("we-better-come-to-this-conclusion-if-we-wish-to- continue-to-get-funding"). Anyone who doesn't believe that politics plays a role in what research gets funded and continuance of that funding is naive. I'm not only talking about the politics of the current administration, but departmental politics, university politics, professional organisation politics, review journal politics, agency politics, popular press politics, etc. Inherent with the politicalisation of scientific research is the suppression/minimization of the results of that research if it doesn't agree with the current mood. Suppression can also occur, especially in government agencies, as a result of turf battles. This leads me to my second point.

    In NASA's case, the problem is with the NASA PAO (Public Affairs Office). They wield an incredible amount of power over all NASA employees and contractors, including astronauts and tend to get a bit incensed when you invade their turf (that is, communicating with the public). Keith Cowing (editor of NASAWATCH) gave some excellent testimony back in 1998 to Congress about the state of affairs at NASA PAO:

    " Problem: Xenophobia at NASA Public Affairs: NASA's Public Affairs Office (PAO) is at fault by virtue of having become the de facto Propaganda Announcement Office with the singular role of preventing the release of damaging information. When bad news does get out, NASA PAO seeks to put the best possible spin on it. For information released voluntarily, NASA is often its worst enemy. I have seen far too many examples of amazing and exciting things NASA does "dumbed-down" for public dissemination. Instead of going out of its way to make the agency open to public scrutiny, NASA PAO seeks to keep the public out.

            NASA PAO seems to have a mission focused only on purveying happy, positive thoughts. If you visit their Space Station or Space Shuttle websites, you'll see that they post reader comments. Have you ever seen a comment in anyway critical of NASA? No - nor will you. When NASA put together its 40th Anniversary exhibits of pivotal events in NASA's history, was there any mention of the Apollo 1 or Challenger accidents? No. NASA has become so xenophobic that it is incapable of admitting, much less dealing with any external criticism. Look at the way they craft their congressional testimony and you will get a regular reminder that they just can't admit that they are at fault.

            NASA's greatest asset is its employees, civil service and contractor alike. Yet from the way NASA PAO overtly prevents them from acting as ambassadors to the outside world you'd think they were guilty of some crime. Indeed, recent surveys done by NASA itself show that an overwhelming portion of NASA employees do not feel that they can speak out freely with out fear of retribution.

            When NASA contractor employees speak out, the fate is far worse. When Jim Oberg, Ken Hollis, and Tom Hancock (a.k.a. "BitFlip") exercised their constitutional right to free speech, and discussed NASA without PAO permission, they soon found their jobs in jeopardy such that they had to leave their jobs. These individuals spoke of nothing proprietary and often spoke and wrote things that made NASA look good.

            Any organization, which is so eager to silence, those who do not agree with official agency dogma is an organization with a serious case of insecurity - one which is not in keeping with the best interests of its employees, its mission, or the taxpayers it is supposed to serve."

    Amen to that

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner