Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cub Reporter

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Kudos to recent college grad and fellow Blogspot blogger Nick Anthis of The Scientific Activist for using his website to out NASA Bush appointee George C. Deutsch for lying about having a B.A. degree in Journalism. This rare good-news story appeared in today's New York Times ("A Young Bush Appointee Resigns his post at NASA").

Poseur Deutsch has gained fame for attempting to silence the top climate scientist at NASA, George Hansen, according to the same reporter at the New York Times. But Hansen is certainly one to fight back. In addition to his stellar career in academic publishing, Professor Hansen uses visual presentations and articles in popular scientific magazines to make the case for Global Warming to the public. This educational outreach campaign is especially important now, since maverick pro-industry climate scientist Richard S. Lindzen apparently has already given his own "tutorial" on climate change to President Bush.

Bad scientific editing seems to be a common practice in the current administration. According to "Decoder: See No Evil" in Sierra Magazine, another political appointee, Philip A. Cooney, showed the pen could indeed by mightier than the sword (or at least cut more text) before the over-zealous expurgator went on to Mobil. It's bad enough that Cooney crossed out whole sections from the report about climate change and even marked one with "straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings here," but he also did a lot of linguistic tweaking that was plainly just bad prose form. Changing "point to the conclusion" to "indicate" seems relatively benign, because it's a shorter phrase, but transforming "is" to "may be" is inexcusable. Plus he larded the language with phrases like "highly controversial," which I always tell my students to avoid. I value a direct style, so intentionally introducing more obfuscation into a government report offends my sensibilities as a compositionist.

Speaking of clarity, here's my opportunity to plug the wonderful AIGA publication Clear, which is a design journal exclusively dedicated to information design. To get a sense of what they write about, check out articles like "Information design" and "Information Design on the Web."

Maybe someone should send young political appointees in the current administration a subscription to Clear. At the very least, maybe they should join The Society for Risk Analysis so they might at least know what they are talking about, even if they only have fake degrees.

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