The Scientific Activist

Add one more to the list.

Yesterday, former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona testified before congress that he was subjected to extensive and systematic political interference in his work by the Bush Administration. From Gardiner Harris of The New York Times:

Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional panel Tuesday that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.

The administration, Dr. Carmona said, would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues. Top officials delayed for years and tried to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand smoke, he said. Released last year, the report concluded that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke could cause immediate harm.

The article goes through these instances of suppression in detail, and I’d encourage you to give it a thorough read.

According to Carmona, some pretty high level people are implicated in this:

In response to lawmakers’ questions, Dr. Carmona refused to name specific people in the administration who had instructed him to put political considerations over scientific ones. He said, however, that they included assistant secretaries of health and human services as well as top political appointees outside the department of health.

Dr. Carmona did offer to provide the names to the committee in a private meeting.

These names need to be released immediately, and pressure must be put on these officials to force their resignations. This type of political interference in science should not be allowed to continue.

But, wait. It gets even better. This part is beyond ludicrous:

Dr. Carmona said he was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of his speeches. He also said he was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings.

And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to a “prominent family” that he refused to name.

“I was specifically told by a senior person, ‘Why would you want to help those people?’ ” Dr. Carmona said.

The Special Olympics is one of the nation’s premier charitable organizations to benefit disabled people, and the Kennedys have long been deeply involved in it.

When asked after the hearing if that “prominent family” was the Kennedys, Dr. Carmona responded, “You said it. I didn’t.”

There’s no reason why we should be particularly surprised about all of this, but Carmona’s testimony is particularly shocking. Without a doubt, this administration has been the most hostile to science (and anything else that counters its narrow, extreme, short-sighted, and destructive right-wing agenda) of any that I know about. This will be the Bush legacy, and thank God (for the sake of scientific progress) it’s almost over.

By the time the dust has settled, though, how much damage will have been done?


  1. #1 Philip Hastings
    July 11, 2007

    Seriously – when are we as a republic going to take this country back from this administration.

    From Chertoff spouting off about his ‘gut feeling’ which in my opinion is like yelling ‘FIRE!” in a movie theatre to Bush and Cheney silencing critics and the media.

    We are seriously headed for anarchy, civil war or a dictatorship. You better choose fast before someone choses for you.

  2. #2 Steve
    July 11, 2007

    How many impeachable offenses does congress need???

  3. #3 kate
    July 11, 2007

    asking “how much damage will have been done” hits on two separate issues:

    1. how much damage to scientific funding, research competitiveness, scientific integrity, etc has occurred (i.e. from politicians toward scientists)
    2. how much damage to scientists’ trust in the government, how much credibility scientists perceive government as having, and how disenchanted scientists are (i.e. from scientists toward politicians)

    unfortunately, i don’t know which one is MORE damaging…

  4. #4 Ray Bryant
    July 11, 2007

    Hey guys, if you could be trusted to tell the truth about anything this story would be of some value. Since the 911 conspiracy theories and a mutitude of other story’s are promoted by you this story is meaningless. This democratic Congress can’t do anything right and you want them to impeach the only person in Washington who is saving your butts and everybody elses from being mass murdered. You people are so blinded by lies it is pathetic.
    The truth would scare you to dealt and your Hollywood approach to everything is like lets make up a story so the rest of you will believe what we want you to believe including the terrorist.
    If you want to take sides on who are the best liars you are already the winner. Sometimes I really think you believe all this crap and that is the scary part. Who should be worried about terrorist when we have you guys at work. RB

  5. #5 wafer
    July 11, 2007

    *Passes the troll a cookie*

  6. #6 charlie
    July 11, 2007

    We’ve had one revolutionary war, it’s time for another..

  7. #7 Steve
    July 11, 2007

    I’m so sick of hearing this “crap”! But I was saying exactly the same things about Clinton, and I still believe he’ll go down as the most dishonest! WE HAVE truely become a divided nation — and you my friend (writer of this, as well as 90% of all media) have caused it. We are so filled with every detail — whether it’s the truth or not. Someone says anything it’s put up as immediate gospel.

    In the end we are all are on the same side I hope — America’s, otherwise we can go through another CIVIL WAR! What happened to “We’re all brothers and sisters” mentality.

  8. #8 R. E. Ibitz
    July 11, 2007

    You left of center liberals only show yourselves for what you really are…………….kooks

  9. #9 terrorfied
    July 11, 2007

    President Bush ordered the killing and slaughter of 10,000’s of personal pets and animals following Katrina so the residents would have much less motivation to return to New Orleans AND pick up their pets. He sent them(people and pets) to every State in the US (a first in US history for pets). The WH realized it made a major mistake in forcing the dogs and pets behind after the flooding with residents wanting to return and get them. The WH has violently refused to release any transcript of what this President said and did during Aug29th-Sept 20th 2005 calling it “too embarrassing”. Imagine what could possibly be too embarrasing for this administration to admitt?!

  10. #10 Mike
    July 11, 2007

    Ray B. I dunno why you’re so in love with the Bush admin. they have really done ZERO good for this country in 6 1/2 years. Giuliani got us (NYC) through 9/11, while Bush just used that to get the Patriot Act passed so he can now do basically whatever the hell he wants. And after that, he decided to spread anti-terror money to all, because places in the middle of no where need it? Been on a NYC subway recently with an NYPD cop wielding an M16 next to you? I think we need the money more than kansas.

    It’s already been proven this administration covers things up, tell lies, envokes executive priviledge to keep things secret, and fires lawyers just for disagreeing. The AG is a liar and the VP shoots people in the face. Seriously, what more could be wrong with the people running the Executive branch of this gov’t today?

  11. #11 TikiMon
    July 11, 2007

    All true! Bush’s Christian brainwashing requires him to ignore science.

    Liberals, however, are JUST AS WILLING to throw out science (and any other good data) that contradict their dogma. Things never change, it’s just a matter of degree.

    Al Gore certainly needs to go back to school. His attempts to wear the mantle of science are laughable.

  12. #12 raymond
    July 11, 2007

    Whether second hand smoke is harmful or not it is legal to but cigarettes and cigars and paople should have the right to smoke. We are smart enough to leave an area with a high smoke concentration whether from a house fir or cigarette smoking. I don’t smoke and a friend at work came to dinner one night in 1971 before designated smoking areas but would not smoke in my house because he knew I didn’t smoke. courtesy in smoking is the key for smokers and common sense is the key for non-smokers.

  13. #13 Logan Bentley
    July 11, 2007

    Is it just my own feeling or is this possibly the most corrupt administration in our nations history?? They seem to have piled up a list of offenses that continue to grow daily as more crap is uncovered…worse imo than Nixon…

  14. #14 Judith Muldoon
    July 11, 2007


  15. #15 Patricia Rose
    July 11, 2007

    I feel sick. Almost all my family and lots of friends have died due to the addiction of cigarettes, I have suffered so much watching each one slowly die in the same manner. A true nightmare, which changed me 30 years ago, after my mothers death, I’ve never been the same and never will. My sister, Barb, only 3 years ago, died the identical way our mother died. Barb and I was only 2 years dif in age and so close to each other. She has been the last one so far. I go to psychiatrist to just cope day to day. Due to my husband and mother dying within 8 months apart.Hell is what we are left with, the survivors are left with hell on earth. Bush, well nothing could or would surprise me about him, but it is sickening that he gets by with so much.
    In 1984 (i think) anyway I will hunt out my copy of a letter I wrote and letter back from C Everet Coop the Att G at the time telling me Cigarettes were not addictive. I feel such anger, thank you for allowing me to speak up, I am cutting this short but I could go on for hours, about all the loved ones I have lost, and the loved ones of mine that sre still suffering mentally and physically due to cigaretts. Thank you for the article Trish Rose Portsmouth Ohio

  16. #16 Cindy Johnson
    July 11, 2007

    Ray Bryant Stated: “you want them to impeach the only person in Washington who is saving your butts and everybody elses from being mass murdered”

    -Too bad he isn’t saving our soldiers from being “mass murdered.”

    2,740 U.S. citizens died in 9/11
    3,609 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq

    Those soldiers have all died for a war that 62% of Americans now think was a mistake. Who is responsible for these soldiers deaths? Bush. Wouldn’t you call that a mass murderer? I’m more afraid of Bush than any other supposed “terrorist” that exists and not because he possibly “blocks” science; He is the most ignorant man we have ever had run this country. I firmly believe a monkey could do a better job. Ray, please, be a Republican. That is fine. But please, be a smart one.

    Ray, you may call people with my views “Hollywood.” However, you are the one giving into the hysteria the media and Bush administration has created about this “terrorist threat.” You may want to check your reality. Are there dangers lurking out there? Of course, we’d be dumb not to believe that. Are they centered around Iraq where Bush focuses his complete attention? No. Never has been. Probably never will be unless they retaliate against us for unrightfully invading their country. In that case, I would wish them good luck. We were wrong to do it. Bush created almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the world didn’t hate us before, they sure do now. Thanks, Mr. Bush. As a 22 year old, I look foward to my bright American future of paying back your debts and being scorned by the world.

  17. #17 RJ
    July 11, 2007

    Ray Bryant: Wow! Some anger simmering there. Please leave that out of your highly scientific analysis in the future.

  18. #18 Jill T
    July 11, 2007

    this administration has been the most hostile to science (and anything else that counters its narrow, extreme, short-sighted, and destructive right-wing agenda) of any that I know about.

    Like your none biased comments…it’s not bad enough that this went on, but you put your own opinions in the article. Under no circumstance do I support any administration garroting a part of the public health organization. I also feel personal opinions have no room here, I can make up my own mind of what i think of the Bush administration.

  19. #19 Look
    July 11, 2007

    We are beyond the tipping point. The followers of this administration are just like this administration. Discredit anyone who may be critical of Bush and read fairy tales before you go to bed. By the way please realize that this Nazi administration was re elected by the US citizens. Never in the history of the world has such a large population of ignorant people lived in one country ( one of the reasons it is easy to become rich in the US). Dumb people worthless congress equals the current situation. I’m out of here.

  20. #20 Mary in Minneapolis
    July 11, 2007

    How outrageous to advance politics of one party while suppressing good, sound health advice.

    If this is true and elected officials are this bold, they HAVE TO be reprimanded and reined back into behaving like human beings who care about other human beings.
    I don’t know how these people can justify their dominating behavior � it�s just plain damaging to us Americans.

    Controlling the Nations Surgeon General like that can�t be allowed to continue. It�s appalling to me to see this has gone on.

    We owe a debt of gratitude to those who brought this issue forward for all to see.

    Is this what we want our country to represent? We used to stand for truth and the greater good. Or at least I thought so. Let�s not allow elected officials to drag America down.

  21. #21 Jim
    July 11, 2007

    Facts are facts.

    Fact is: our government is seriously broken. It has been for a long time. Most of my adult life Republicans have been in office. The best years I’ve known for our country and for me in particular were the Clinton years when the Republicans worked very hard to impeach Clinton for getting a blow job from someone other than Hillary.

    Now all that ‘bad’ on Republicans may be a coincidence. Democrats aren’t angels either. But YOU decide who’s to blame…

    Someone said “beware of your government?”–I say “Government beware of how you treat your people” because I, for one, am growing BEYOND angry and disillusioned…

  22. #22 TerpsFreak
    July 11, 2007

    i think we need to take that ass clown in the whitehouse and all his little evangelical nutties and either euthanize them or send them off to colonize Mars on the Space Shuttle Mayflower. (throw in the pope for good measure)

    the damage they have done to our children, our country, and our world, is bordering on being irreparable.

  23. #23 EN
    July 11, 2007

    What’s really frightening is to see people like Ray Bryant who have had 6 years to watch the ceaseless self-serving actions of this administration, endlessly manipulating everything to the benefit of their cronies, including apparently the CEOs of the big cigarette companies … and still they don’t realize what’s going on. AND, they can vote! Its hard to imagine what incentive someone would have to be that blind, but the one that keeps coming up is fear. Ray himself mentioned that he fears being “mass murdered.” It’s actually a ridiculous fear unless you happen to work in the Pentagon, but Bush has succeeded in convincing people even in smallsville USA that the bearded turbaned crazy ones are going to bomb them. In exchange for the illusion of security, these people are eager to give up progress in science, our civil rights, and the just society that the founders of the United States envisioned. And the joke of the matter is that what we really have in the terrorist crisis is a conflict between *like* entities: both are religious fundamentalists who put their aims ahead of any of the principals their religion advocates. No wonder they hate each other so much. What’s so sad is that the more the USA becomes like the islamic fundamentalist countries in its governance, the more the results will be the same: poverty, lack of education, social unrest, lack of scientific progress, economic ruin.

  24. #24 DR
    July 11, 2007

    It is incredible that some people still manage to have faith in the Bush administration. Even if you don’t buy into all of the “conspiracy theories” and “Hollywood approach to everything” (?!), there should be plenty enough credible content like the Congressional testimony commented on in this article to have you questioning the White House’s motives. The government’s job is to serve its people, not its own interests. Power often leads people to forget this. Hindering the Surgeon General’s efforts to communicate research findings, along with any number of other truly anti-American activities the government has engaged in, can be seen as an unfortunate disservice to American citizens…and, by example, to the world.

    By the way, this is not fodder made up by Scientific Activist; testimony was given to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee by former Surgeons General Richard Carmona, David Satcher, and C. Everett Koop of the G.W.Bush, Clinton, and Reagan administrations, respectively. This was reported in most major newspapers.

  25. #25 Betty
    July 11, 2007

    Thank you, raymond. I agree that the issue of smoking is one of choice for smokers, and common sense for non-smokers. We have all heard the argument hundreds of times to know better, if we choose. The issue here is the Special Olympics and helping “those people.” How very sad that the Bush Administration can turn its back on such a large portion of its population. Its about stem cell research. Without a care, its “survival of the fittest.” While paralyzed patients are confined to wheelchairs and family members and society are forced to support them [and im not complaining] research that could possibly help disabled people to regain their ability to provide for themselves and their own families should be done. Its also about emergency contraception and sex education. Its about 14 year old girls in junior-high school going off campus to the nearest high-school to take a teen pregnancy class because theyre pregnant and they didnt have $500 dollars for an abortion. So they end up having the child in the emergency room for free with the tax payers money. And this is fine. I work hard and I am able to pay my taxes and I would not live anywhere else. Its not about us being “protected from mass murdering,” its just that the fact of a government that does not have so much as an inkling of human compassion for its OWN citizens is quite exhausting and as soon as this is over, I will crawl out from under my proverbial rock and thank God.

  26. #26 Justin
    July 11, 2007

    This is for Ray Bryant since he seems unable to check the validity of the article through other sources.,1,915545.story?coll=la-news-politics-national&track=crosspromo

  27. #27 Byown
    July 11, 2007

    In Romania, every scientist who published was required to include President Ceaucescu’s wife’s name as a co-author, intended to give the impression that she was a genius with credentials in every field. Requiring Dr. Carmona to mention President Bush three times on each page of every speech is no less ridiculous, and hardly less frightening. Our government has thrown reason and perspective out the window; the game has no rules.

  28. #28 Jason
    July 11, 2007

    A Society that will trade a little liberty for a little security will lose both, and deserves neither.

  29. #29 RickD
    July 11, 2007

    Wow, you’ve got a lot of trolls in your comments here!

    Ray Bryant: I think you need to check in to a clinic and get treated for an advanced stage of authoritarian worship. When you realize that the 9/11 attacks occurred on Bush’s watch partly because he ignored all of the warnings, we’ll send in a pizza.

    TikiMon: empty allegations, unsubstantiated. Propaganda. And utterly false, FWIW.

  30. #30 Get real
    July 11, 2007

    This article is nonsense. It suggests that the surgeon general is some sort of unbiased demi-god who only wants to promote pure, snow-white scientific ideals. The Surgeon general post is inheritly political. It is not a purely scientific post. It is well within the right of the administration to ask someone in a political post to promote the politics of the administration to which he belongs.
    If you don’t think it is a political post, get real. It should be obvious that issues around stem cells, abortion, socialized medicine, AIDS, cigarettes, cloning, etc, have overlap between science and politics.
    This guy seems more upset the a republican administration wants a republican political slant to the surgeon general post rather than a liberal one. How is that a crime?

  31. #31 Scott
    July 11, 2007

    The people in this country need to go dig out their history books. Our founding fathers believed that a healthy distrust of your own government was essential to a patriotic republic. We have become sheep and the government has become sheep herders. Remember…Dissent IS Patriotic.

  32. #32 Rocky Raccoon
    July 11, 2007

    Science vs. Republicans, thats what this seems to be about. Republicans choose what to belive, they choose to uphold there beliefs and try to run our country according to them. Scientists dont run the country, scientists dont have power, scientist don’t have fundementlist beliefs, scientists devote there lives to making sure what we say is true, IS ACTUALLY TRUE, the people that run our country assume that a book about magic and miracles written 2000 years ago, is ACTUALLY TRUE, IT WAS 2000 YEARS AGO!!!! shouldnt every competent human being, with half a brain, be able to realize that no-one knew anyhting about anyhting back then. Come ON!!!! if you around when everyone was spreading the word of jesus, and everyone belived so easily that he rose form the dead, I got news from you, there were more poeple who thought the earth was flat, than there were believing in christs return. But now, science (or just humans I should say) have figured out that the earth is a sphere, so now everyone in this world KNOWS the earth is actually round, but how come theres still so many people that KNOW there is a god, how come so many poeple KNOW that christ died for them, how come so many poeple KNNOW im going top hell becuase I dont belive in there lord. COME ON!!!!! religion is a great idea, but most poeple don;t have the insight to take everything in the bible figuritivly, and maybe go read some other religous texts, like the koran, or read what buddhism has to say, and take those things as literally as you do your damn bible, because the bible is no more imporant or correct than the Torah, the Koran, or any religous text.

  33. #33 Dr X
    July 11, 2007

    You’ve got to love the White House reaction to Carmona’s testimony. Quoting administration spokesperson Emily Lawrimore, the Times says:

    “the surgeon general ‘is the leading voice for the health of all Americans.’

    “‘It’s disappointing to us,’ Ms. Lawrimore said, ‘if he failed to use this position to the fullest extent in advocating for policies he thought were in the best interests of the nation.'”

    Emily Lawrimore, is a 27-year-old, ’02 graduate of Clemson who majored in speech. Prior to holding her present position she was an executive assistant to Karl Rove. This little twerp has the cajones to stand before grownups and say that “we” (she and her bosses) are disappointed that Carmona didn’t defy…uh…. her bosses to do what was in the best interests of the nation.

    Meantime, Vice Admiral Carmona, who was raised in Harlem, enlisted in the US Army after dropping out of high school in the 1960s. Carmona is a decorated Vietnam combat veteran who served in Army special forces. After earning an Army GED, Carmona completed college and graduated from UCSF Medical School at the top of his class. He completed a surgical residency and a fellowship in trauma, burns and critical care. In 1998, Carmona earned a Masters of Public Health at the University of Arizona.

    And little Emily is disappointed in Dr. Carmona.

    Here is a photo of little Emily. She’s the one on the left. You can tell she is a woman of great moral substance because there are lots of flags and photos of politicians around her.

  34. #34 Nick Anthis
    July 11, 2007

    Thanks for the info, Dr. X.

    It was probably the most absurd and nonsensical reaction an administration could have.

  35. #35 Michael
    July 11, 2007

    Great post, Dr. X! Not that two-faced hypocrisy is anything new to this administration…

    As for Ray Bryant, is he (or she):

    A. A fundagelical religious mouth-breather
    B. A brilliant satirist
    C. A pathetic troll
    D. One of those people who physically abuses puppies (I know they are out there, I recently rescued a traumatized puppy from a shelter)

  36. #36 Bob
    July 11, 2007

    The notion that our government is “for the people, by the people” has long ended.

    I find faults in both parties. Is there a way we can reboot or government or apply the government 2.0 patch?

  37. #37 Brotha Truth
    July 11, 2007

    I would say something but thanks to The Bush Communist Mafia and Gonzales, we can’t speak in the USA anymore.

  38. #38 Susan Brinchman
    July 18, 2007

    I call for a full investigation, by Congress, of the areas neglected by the Surgeon General due to this political pressure related to serious public health problems, now at epidemic levels, like asthma, cancers, and auto-immune diseases due to indoor air pollution in our air-tight, sick buildings (from fungi & bacteria related to dampness, also, trapped chemicals). I am especially concerned with molds found in our nation’s schools. I invite you to visit The Center for School Mold Help’s Breaking News page on, to learn more about how the Surgeon General skirted this issue two years ago at a meeting with hundreds of concerned scientists.

  39. #39 Ender
    July 18, 2007

    People, if you’re going to quote others, please give credit. Ahem, Jason.

    I am Republican but I fear for the future to come and for what’s in store for the loves of my life; my infant sons.

    I will try to control my anger but if this government took them from me and I was left to wonder why like the families of the 3,609 soldiers that died as stated above, I would fight that government till the day I died. The events on September 11 angered this nation but we saw Americans risking their lives for Americans and bonding together to salvage what was left. Bush took that bond and crushed it under his shoot-em-up-cowboy foot.

  40. #40 Electronic Cigarettes
    March 30, 2011

    i think we need to take that ass clown in the whitehouse and all his little evangelical nutties and either euthanize them or send them off to colonize Mars on the Space Shuttle Mayflower. (throw in the pope for good measure)

    the damage they have done to our children, our country, and our world, is bordering on being irreparable.

  41. #41 Electronic Cigarettes
    March 30, 2011

    i think we need to take that ass clown in the whitehouse and all his little evangelical nutties and either euthanize them or send them off to colonize Mars on the Space Shuttle Mayflower. (throw in the pope for good measure)

    the damage they have done to our children, our country, and our world, is bordering on being irreparable.

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