Enviroweb is the blog by a aquatic and environmental scientist Eugene Macri on all aspects of the environment,science, ecology, health, educational science and the politics involved. ©2006 All Rights Reserved E. Macri. Permission to reprint or use electronically as long as credit is given and we are notified.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Michael Crichton and George Bush: Real Science, Global Warming and the Environment!


President Bush is a fan of Michael Crichton. Bush evidently spent a long time with Crichton discussing global warming and perhaps his fictional account of ecoterrorism, State of Fear. This is the president who can’t pass a seventh grade science test. But it doesn’t matter because once again it’s the same mode of operation for this administration…..denial!

Crichton can only be described as incompetent as a scientist. The sad part is that he has a MD from Harvard. Thank god he never decided to practice medicine. But don’t let that MD from Harvard fool you. I’ve pissed off enough people over the years in my comments that MDs should be required to get a PhD in biology or related areas before getting an MD. Over the years I’ve found most MDs limited in a basic understanding of environmental science, risk assessment, and nutrition just to mention a few.

Crichton has similar views on DDT and distorts the evidence on these fronts also. He is the golden boy of the right just as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the favorite of the left. Both appear to lack scientific understandings on major issues and bend it to suit their political dialogue no matter what. Crichton’s book, State of Fear, has been destroyed by scientific peer review. I will not go into an analysis of the fraud presented in Crichton’s book because others have already done that (try www.earthinstitute.columbia.edu).

It has now reached the point of total insanity in this country in terms of science. Bush’s era is part of The Dark Ages of American Science. There are a number of reasons for this change including 1) America is a semi-literate and scientifically illiterate nation 2) scientists just don’t wish to get involved in the politics of their own science just look at the fiasco in evolution. 3) many scientists fear their grants will be affected 4) some universities do not want any problems and know the consequences of professors speaking out against this administration in any form 5) many scientists have a disdain for talking to the American public 6) most scientists are not good at speaking especially in the format as presented by the media….the sound bite and 7) science is no longer taken to the people as it was hundreds of years ago.

I never thought I would see this in the scientific community. When Michael Crichton is considered someone with knowledge of climate change we are in serious trouble. As stated in one of my previous post, Everyone is a Scientist in America. But Crichton’s type of fraudulent rhetoric fits perfectly on something like Rush Limbaugh’s show or Fox news. There is no critical analysis…just that quick sound bite charged with emotion to push the button of the person who cannot understand climate change or will never take the time to research it. This is how everything is done in America and some media sluts like Ann Coulter have made a fortune after perfecting this right wing rhapsody.

But Crichton is part of the bigger problem and that’s number one on my list: America is a semi-literate and scientifically illiterate nation! More Americans believe in extra terrestrials and UFOs than in evolution. It’s 2006 but not in America! This group of theocratic fascists led by Bush and Cheney have plunged America into a backward slide that we may never recover from and that’s why Crichton’s book of fiction is considered science! Instead of science we look to myth, religion and rulers who talk to the spirits for our salvation and to solve our problems.

Perhaps H.L. Mencken said it best, “You will never go broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Art and Science of Hunting with Dick Cheney: Arm Chair Outdoorsman or Sportsman?

The recent hunting accident of Vice-President Dick Cheney is sad in a number of ways. For the gentleman who was shot by the Vice-President and for hunting and sportsmen nationwide. The anti-hunting crowd will have a field day with this. As an environmental scientist, fisherman, hunter, and all around outdoorsman I can already hear the argument that will be made by the crazies who want to ban all guns and hunting in general. If not for hunters there would be no wildlife left in America contrary to what these people think. Hunting fees and associated costs pay for the wildlife in this country not the crazies who want to ban it.

There are a number of disturbing questions with the story put out by the White House in this accident. The first problem is the idea that the hunter who was shot was to blame. There is a basic law of hunting and that is always safety first. The second problem is that hunters especially bird hunters should always know where every hunter is. With that in mind one wonders about the truth in this incident.

How many people were hunting? Three people hunting quail together in the same area is very unusual. Most of the time two hunters, one on each side (right and left of the intended area) are fanning out. Next they were hunting by car. Really! This is interesting to say the least. Did they have dogs? Why was Mr. Whittington getting his own birds? They were hunting at around 5 p.m... I wonder why most quail hunters usually hunt in the morning when it's easiest to see the little creatures but not Dick Cheney! Mr. Whittington was 30 yards away when he was supposedly "peppered." A 28 gauge shotgun with this type of bird shot used by the Vice-President usually has about 350 to 400 pellets in it. If shot in the air at 30 yards (which is nearly one-third of a football field) I question the pattern that would have hit Mr. Wittington.

It’s more likely that Mr. Whittington was 10 to 15 yards away. Furthermore, it's possible that the quail may have been shot not in the air but on or near the ground! There is no way of knowing the real story because none of us were there. However, contrary to what has been said about Cheney's expertise with a shotgun he supposedly had a similar problem on the Eastern Shore of Maryland duck hunting a few years back when he peppered a few people but none were injured.

But there is another problem with all of this and that's the way Cheney hunts. Cheney took heat over a pheasant hunt in Pennsylvania when the place he hunted released birds from nets so they could be shot. Cheney and friends killed a huge number of pheasants that day. This is not sporting. This is the equivalent of fishing inside the trout hatchery but not in the stream. There is a difference among a shooter, a hunter and a sportsman. Because Cheney is a good shot does not make him either. Most hunters would not consider it sporting to shoot game with methods used by Cheney. To put it bluntly the Vice-President is a slob hunter.

He lacks the true call of the outdoors and nobility of being a sportsman. Hunting quail from the car! Who were flushing the quail, ---the secret service? You go quail hunting to watch the dogs work as much as you go to hunt. Cheney is what many in this business now call "the armchair outdoorsman." There are a lot of these people around in both the hunting and fishing world. Some even pass themselves off as outdoor writers. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here. This is not about private hunting areas which have been around for hundreds of years especially in Europe. I really don't have a problem with them. Most of these people are top notch sportsmen in both hunting and fishing but quite a few are not, and Cheney is one of them. Cheney is the darling of the NRA of which I am a member. The NRA should realize that because you own a gun and support the NRA does not make you a sportsman. Cheney is not a sportsman and he should not be the cover boy for the NRA. Cheney is a slob…a hunting slob. He is a disgrace for any hunter that respects the sport and nature.

There is a lot of money in the outdoor business and many places now cater to these types of people. Most of these people are despised by true sportsmen but many of these types have the money to do whatever they want. Money talks! I've seen the same types on trout streams too and some days you would like to drown them. But there appears to be a darker side to all of this and that's Cheney's lack of reverence for nature or for that matter the safety of hunting and the nobility of the sport. Does Dick Cheney think it makes him macho to kill so many pheasants that had just been released into the air? Perhaps it does to an "armchair outdoorsman" or the hunting slob that he is. The same Cheney got five deferments for the Viet Nam war. I guess he wasn't feeling so macho then. The real problems are that we have two "armchair warriors" in the Whitehouse, Cheney and Bush who do the same thing with war! Is this a metaphor for how they run everything and the excuses they make afterwards! We have seen what condition the world is in now because of these two who never really served in the military or know anything about it. They are the great pretenders whether quail hunting or hunting terrorists, they can't seem to separate what to destroy and what not to destroy including our constitution. They prove that money can never by class or what they really want to be a sportsman or a warrior because they are neither.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Everyone Wants to Be A Scientist!: Part 1

Everyone wants to be a scientist, or that's the way it appears these days. These would-be scientists include a great cast of unlikely characters including Rush Limbaugh, Ron Bailey, Jonathan Adler, Michael Crichton, and from the left Robert Kennedy Jr. Part one will explore one of these so called scientific geniuses, in this case Robert Kennedy Jr. I have personal experience with RFK Jr. because he, Riverkeeper Inc., and Waterkeeper Alliance filed a federal law suit against me and my start-up nonprofit The Last Riverkeeper (www.lastriverkeeper.org). RFK Jr. is the darling of the left and most of the media. The problem is that he spouts out as much misinformation as some of the people on the right. Unfortunately, the media who are scientifically illiterate seldom properly question him or anyone else on his rants.

Kennedy Jr., Riverkeeper Inc., and Waterkeeper Alliance filed a lawsuit against me over trademark infringement over the generic noun river keeper (or riverkeeper). Kennedy Jr. basically took over Riverkeeper Inc. when Robert Boyle the founder and most of the board quit after a dispute with Kennedy Jr.. It appears RFK Jr. hired a convicted environmental felon as one of their chief scientists! Boyle who did most of the original work on the Hudson River along with the fishermen in the area is still bitter to this day. Kennedy Jr. appears to take credit for most of what Boyle and others started. The organization once had a scientific bent but appears to be more interested in litigation and fundraising than using science to protect the river since many scientific organizations now do most of the studies and funding for these studies on the Hudson. Kennedy Jr., Riverkeeper Inc., and Waterkeeper Alliance have over 120 so called franchises of their so called Riverkeeper Inc. Some of them do some good but I would ask for a complete inspection of their lack of scientific work in many of areas, and I wonder what they actually do in benchmarking and protecting their waters. I have no problem with some of the work Kennedy Jr., his lawyers and even some of the Riverkeeper Inc. franchises have done but it appears Riverkeeper Inc. and Waterkeeper Alliance overall maybe more interested in being a platform for speaking engagements (which RFK Jr. is highly paid) and other political functions. Kennedy Jr. and crew hired tobacco lawyers and tried to sue corporate hog farms in the South under the RICO act. They got blown out. Perhaps using scientific studies would have gone a long way to fighting these conglomerates instead of legal sleight of hand.

To show you just how sad this is, type these word individually into google or yahoo search: riverkeeper, river keeper, the riverkeeper etc. How many hits did you get! River keeper (riverkeeper) is a generic noun! It's part of the fly fishing tradition of Europe. It was brought to America before these people were even born. The word has been around for hundreds of years. Boyle first trademarked the word in around 1982. Most of the fly fishing community just yawned because Boyle was respected enough no one thought it would come to this. Boyle got the name riverkeeper off of the late, great fly fisherman and writer Dr. Ernie Schwiebert. Schwiebert popularized the term again in 1980 when he wrote the book Death of a Riverkeeper. Schwiebert told Boyle then, it was a generic noun and anyone could use it. Schwiebert who was a friend of mine passed away unexpectedly in December. He was a great angler and a great person. A more learned man you would have never met. He wanted me to fight this to the end, and I am trying my best. Schwiebert was ready to testify and was extremely upset that the word riverkeeper would be hijacked! (For the complete story of this mess go to: www.lastriverkeeper.org.)

Some of you may be thinking why these people would sue a scientist and a nonprofit. Yes, that is the question but the answer is right in front of you. And it's not probably about the trademark Riverkeeper which is I believe without merit. Follow this train of thought. First of all, no one is going to confuse Riverkeeper Inc. with The Last Riverkeeper. Kennedy Jr. and his lawyers believe everyone knows who Riverkeeper Inc. is! Nothing could be further from the truth. Most people even in the environmental movement don't know who Riverkeeper Inc. is! There are two reasons for this: 1) they are not widely known compared National Wildlife etc. because they tend to be localized on the limited 120 franchise they have. Some people who belong to these franchises didn't even know they were affiliated with Riverkeeper Inc. 2) the damn word is so generic it is not brandable! There is no intellectual property in stealing a generic noun and saying you invented it and now owns it. Furthermore, once a generic noun...always a generic noun! Everyone in marketing knows if you are going to trademark something you don't choose something generic! You pick a novel or made up name and then you brand it to stop it from becoming generic! The word riverkeeper or river keeper is part of the fishing and fly fishing heritage of the world. Only a bunch of lunatics like Kennedy Jr. and his Waterkeeper Alliance would believe that once this common generic word was trademarked it became unique!

But I don't think this is about the trademark as much as the sound coming from the word riverkeeper. RFK Jr. and his organizations want the center stage for fundraising and for speaking etc. They don't want anyone speaking or telling the truth especially in these areas because someone might ask, "Is Kennedy Jr. misinforming everyone!"

As an example, remember when Katrina hit. Kennedy Jr. went on one of his rants and stated that if the Kyoto Protocols would have been in effect this basically wouldn't have happened. Here's the link on the Huffington Post(www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr). The problem is that whether the protocols were in effect or not would not have made any difference. The reason for this is Kennedy Jr.'s lack of understanding of science. Whenever someone presents you with data (especially mounds of data as in global warming) ask yourself three questions: 1) who gathered the data 2) what instruments or models did they use and were they calibrated properly 3) did governments or someone else control the way the data were gathered or measured? I've worked in the environmental area over 30 years and I can tell you that these three questions must always be tested. To put it bluntly remember Macri's Rule of Data: In Most Cases Environmental Data are overly Optimistic! It's human nature to do that! Furthermore, most of the protocols were watered down from the original models. Also, China, India and all other nations must be included for any of this to have a chance of working.

Today you are seeing a growing number of climate scientists saying exactly that, and we must act quickly in a more aggressive manner than the protocols. Few media outlets challenged Kennedy Jr. on this misinformation. But he was fodder for the right-wing bloggers who wait for this kind of stuff. It reminded me of when the same RFK Jr. stated on one of his ventures to the Midwest that corporate hog farms were more of a threat than Osama Bin Laden! I may be able to understand in some small way what Kennedy Jr. meant by this statement (I don't have time to go into it now) but do you think the average American who hears this, then writes Kennedy off and anyone who speaks on the environment as nuts!

But the hypocrisy of RFK Jr. is legendary including his beating on everyone who drives an SUV or a pick-up truck while he flies in private jets (an SUV in the sky)! Or perhaps the money he makes from his family's oil stocks while attacking the oil industry (they need to be attacked but one would think you wouldn't be investing in them)! Or how about his work against the windmills off the coast of Cape Cod (it seems his family owns property there) so much for alternative energy as long as it's not in my back yard!

Robert Kennedy Jr. is not a scientist. He constantly misinforms the public on a variety of topics to engender his political bent. He is doing more damage than good. He has polarized many groups including those that we need (such as sportsmen's group who should be on the side of clean water, land and air). He wants only one sound coming from the word riverkeeper and that is his own voice but when only one voice his heard no voices and no truth are heard. If he wanted to be a scientist he should have gone to the university to be one, instead he pretends he's one, and the media and others have let him get away with it. He's a lawyer? There are lots of lawyers and many claiming to be environmental lawyers. I know a few who actually are. Some people refer to him as an Eco-Activist? What the hell does that mean? That's not a scientist. Anyone with an IQ over 12 should realize as a species we should all be Eco-Activists or we will perish. It's about time scientists started to speak out. I have had enough of boy Kennedy and maybe some you have too.

Many people and even some scientists may be enamored by the Kennedy mystique. I am not. Kennedy Jr. and his groups want to control their image and their message to control what the public thinks. In my opinion they are no better than the idiots in the White House. They are all cut from the same cloth. Little rich boys who want to control the world. As someone once said, "War is too important to be left to the Generals." And environmental science is too important to be left to the rich who want to misinform and control, whether they are on the right or the left!


Eugene Macri