Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Squeaky Flack Gets the Axe

If you’re a young professional with a cush government PR gig you got because you worked on George Bush’s campaign, it’s probably not a good idea to go mano a mano with rocket scientists – especially if you lied about graduating from college.

Yet that’s exactly what 24-year-old NASA public affairs officer George Deutsch did when he denied NPR’s request to interview Dr. Jim Hansen about global warming. Pretty soon, other NASA scientists started coming forward with stories about Bush-appointed public affairs flacks trying to suppress scientific information. A February 4 New York Times story trotted out an even more egregious example of Deutsch’s handiwork:

In October 2005, Mr. Deutsch sent an e-mail message to Flint Wild, a NASA contractor working on a set of Web presentations about Einstein for middle-school students. The message said the word "theory" needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.

The Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator."

It continued: "This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most."

Unfortunately for this Texas A&M alum, one of the people this account upset was fellow Aggie Nick Anthis, who publishes a blog called The Scientific Activist. Originally just intending to chastise Deutsch, Anthis was tipped off that the young NASA charge had not actually graduated. A quick call to Texas A&M confirmed that Deutsch didn’t receive a journalism degree in 2003 as he’d stated. Deutsch, already under fire, had no choice but to resign.

Yet the question remains: how the hell did he get his job in the first place? When I went to work for the state, I had to give them two original copies of my college transcript to prove my academic qualifications were in fact legitimate. You would think the federal government's background check would be a little more thorough than that, especially in this age of "Total Information Awareness." Clearly there’s a different set of standards at play for Bush appointees.

I wonder how many more like Deutsch are out there, actively supressing taxpayer-funded research under the radar on behalf of crypto-dominionist ideology?

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