Causing Trouble in Las Vegas

I'm pleased to see that the Las Vegas Sun covered the remarks made by myself and General Clark at the Yearly Kos science panel last Friday. I made sure to give my comments a local hook, and the paper picked up on that. Get ready for a long excerpt:

Mooney specifically criticized President Bush and made passing reference to Nevada congressman Jim Gibbons, a Republican candidate for governor. Mooney noted that Gibbons wrote and released a report last year, with Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., titled "Mercury in Perspective: Fact and Fiction About the Debate Over Mercury."

Billed as an exhaustive review of the science on mercury, the Gibbons/Pombo report downplayed many concerns about the health effects from environmentalists and even federal regulators. The report focused on mercury produced by fossil fuel-burning power plants, but environmentalists also are concerned about mercury produced by the metal mining industry, a politically potent industry in Nevada that has supported Gibbons.

Mooney, a regular contributor to the American Prospect, a monthly magazine with a liberal perspective, has written about the mercury issue and the Gibbons/Pombo report in the magazine.

In February 2005, Mooney said the report brought scientific debate on an already politicized issue to a new low, and called it a "misleading contrarian pamphlet aimed at convincing Americans that despite everything they may have heard, mercury levels in fish aren't dangerous and U.S.-based mercury emitters aren't a significant part of the problem."

Robert Uithoven, Gibbons' campaign manager, responded to Mooney's jab, noting that his boss has a master's degree in geology from UNR: "Jim Gibbons is a scientist. He's educated as a scientist in Nevada's schools and educational system."

Uithoven also condemned what he called a blanket attack on all Republicans, saying it "shows the shortsightedness of some of these critics." He said critics could cherry-pick the positions of candidates from both Democrats and Republicans, but that to do so was unfair.

Gibbons has not had to address the issue of evolution in the House, but believes that God created evolution, Uithoven said. "He would never as a governor try to push an agenda on our schools."

On global warming: "There's a lot of people who believe the Earth is warming, but don't have empirical proof that it's the fault of the people of the United States."

What I actually said about Gibbons in Vegas is that he's a case study of a politician who distorted science (with respect to mercury) and may now have to pay some electoral consequences for it. But in any case, I love that Gibbons' campaign manager was drawn by this reporter into responding to me. "Jim Gibbons is a scientist"--as if that's an excuse for putting out that deeply misleading mercury report. And then the equally misleading comment on global warming: "There's a lot of people who believe the Earth is warming, but don't have empirical proof that it's the fault of the people of the United States." "Empirical proof": is this another anti-modeling comment? "People of the United States": Well, no, it's not exclusively our fault. That's why they call it global warming. But we are contributing plenty to it, that's for sure.

At least Gibbons isn't anti-evolution. But if he wants the press to think of him as a scientist, he might want to look to how his aides present the scientific consensus on global warming....

P.S. Want to say something about Tropical Storm Alberto later, but first I'm off to watch the World Cup (all work ceases when the USA is playing...)


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