The Intersection


[Marbled Murrelet: “Hey, over here! Look how cute I am! Forget the CDC scandal, focus on me!”]

Okay: We all know about the forced editing of the CDC testimony. Outrageous stuff–and the kind of misbehavior that just makes the White House look silly and lame. But ask yourself: How much harm resulted here? What was at stake, other than the White House’s (and John Marburger’s) already very damaged credibility?

In a less publicized, but also recently exposed, misuse of science case study, the consequences could be much more dramatic. As this Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial notes, a rather notorious former political appointee in the Fish and Wildlife Service, Julie MacDonald, seems to have had a disturbing impact on “scientific” deliberations at the agency about the status of a threatened (and very cute) seabird, the Marbled Murrelet. The revelations (PDF) come courtesy of EarthJustice, and include things like the following:

On March 22, 2004, Julie MacDonald requested copies of 12-15 publications concerning population trends and relation of logging to murrelets. “She commented that her review indicates continued use/overuse of ‘bad’ data, misuse of these types of data in calculating trends (bias), misstatements about what the article authors actually stated or intended – i.e., a pattern of mistakes (her words) both in the original listing, subsequent reviews, and in EDAW’s report.”

….Julie MacDonald does not want status review to exclude raw data that have not been subject to peer review and explains that such a standard would exclude timber industry research underway that is not intended for publication and thus will not be peer reviewed…Response indicates that nonpeer reviewed data will be considered but greater weight will be given to studies that have been peer reviewed.

I’m a bit mixy about the current status of the murrelet, but it appears that while the bird is still protected, a major document that MacDonald influenced (a Fish and Wildlife Service 5 Year Status Review) is prompting lawsuits and such seeking to have the bird delisted. So says EarthJustice, anyway. I say: Will we ever even know the full extent of improper meddling with science that has occurred under this shameless administration?


  1. #1 Lance
    October 31, 2007


    I know you abhor “the tragic politicization of climate science” so I’m sure you’ll retract your claims that the Bush administration censored Julie Gerberding’s report to congress when you read her own response to the political charges.

    It seems Gerberding told a press luncheon the day after her testimony, “I feel very confident we had a completely honest conversation” with lawmakers. She called press coverage about the edited material “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

    Surely now you’ll take this opportunity to lower the temperature of the political climate.

    Maybe I should start a cap and trade business that would allow enviro-pundits to pay me for making over heated political pronouncements. I could make a tidy profit selling “hot air” credits on this blog alone.

  2. #2 Linda
    October 31, 2007

    “Shameless Administration” is putting it very mildly. In my lifetime, there has been no worse. Is January, 2009 close enough to hope again…

  3. #3 tom
    November 1, 2007

    i dont think so :/

  4. #4 Erik
    November 1, 2007

    Lance, are you talking about Julie McDonald? Did she change her name recently?

  5. #5 B
    November 1, 2007


    Any guess how many years it will take to uncover all the dirty dealings of the Bush administration? And how much longer after that to clean up the mess?

    I’m starting to feel we have only scratched the surface and that post 2009 there may be some folks headed to jail.

  6. #6 Banner
    January 19, 2008

    scandals all the time, nothing new 😛 hehe

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