Guest swamp analysis by David Middleton
By JACQUELINE ALEMANY CBS NEWS November 21, 2017, 5:00 AM
Donald Trump’s science office is a ghost town
In its 41-year-old history as the White House hub of innovation, the Office of Science and Technology Policy has never gone this long without a leader or official mandate. The science office, which takes up half of the fourth floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, has a fleet of empty desks.
The OSTP, as administration staffers refer to it, has hosted two events since President Trump took office: One on drones and another on “American Leadership in Emerging Technology” that prominently featured the high powered tech executives in attendance like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
But nine months into his administration, there’s no clear indication that the president is close to naming a science adviser who will inform his policymaking, though that’s the mission that the OSTP has played since its founding in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. From climate change to space to education, the office has served as an in-house incubator for research, data, and crisis management that drove policy under seven presidents.
Under Mr. Trump, the OSTP staff has dropped to 45 staffers, a substantial decline from President Obama’s OSTP, which had a staff of 135 people.
“It was clear that [Obama] understood how and why science and technology matter to virtually every facet of the national agenda and that he would understand and run with good ideas presented to him,” said Dr. John Holdren, the former OSTP Director and senior science adviser to Mr. Obama. “Trump is a science and technology talent repellent.”
“In previous administrations, OSTP was central to disaster mitigation efforts, including hurricanes — but when Hurricane Irma, Harvey and Maria struck the U.S., OSTP lacked key leaders,” the letter [from seven Democratic senators] read . “Scientific and technical input would also have contributed to decisions around climate change, the Iran nuclear deal and North Korea’s nuclear program — areas where key decisions have been made over the past nine months in absence of a science adviser and other officials.”
“The first and only contact that OSTP leadership had with any member of the Trump team about the transition at OSTP did not take place until a week before the inauguration, was with an individual with no particular background in science, technology, or science and technology policy, and lasted exactly one hour,” Holdren told CBS News. “We handed over our 100+ chapter transition book and never heard a peep back. I have no idea whether anybody read it.”
The federal budget process, too, is feeling the effects of the OSTP staffing shortage.
Historically, OSTP participates in the budget-writing process with the Office of Management and Budget, to recommend research and development priorities for federal agencies. But the 2018 budget — which saw a 20 percent decrease in research and development funding — was crafted without input from OSTP’s Assistant Director of Federal Research and Development. That role has gone unfilled in the Trump White House.
The research cuts were, in the words of one Obama administration OSTP staffer, “unprecedented and dramatic” reductions that would have otherwise funded the NIH, the Department of Energy and NASA.
Reasons given for maintaining the Office of Science and Technology Policy:
- Climate change
- Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria
- Clean energy
- Climate change
- Iran nuclear deal
- Climate change
- North Korea nuclear program
- Climate change
- Artificial intelligence
- Climate change
Where’s that Tim Allen clip? Oh, here it is…
“Scientific and technical input would also have contributed to decisions around climate change, the Iran nuclear deal and North Korea’s nuclear program — areas where key decisions have been made over the past nine months in absence of a science adviser and other officials.”
IF OSTP’s scientific and technical input contributed to the Obama maladministration’s decisions regarding climate change, the Iran nuclear deal and North Korea’s nuclear program, as a part-time resident of Houston, I am thrilled that it was not “central to disaster mitigation efforts, including hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria.” Houston was back up and open for business a week after Harvey… without any help from OSTP.
- With OSTP’s input, we got Paris and unconditionally surrendered to Iran.
- Without OSTP’s input, we turned Paris into a travelling fossil fuels and nuclear power trade show on our way to the exit; and we de-certified our unconditional surrender to Iran.
Based on the above, I’m A-OK with tackling North Korea and future hurricanes without any input from OSTP.
OSTP 2009-2016 RIP
“It was clear that [Obama] understood how and why science and technology matter to virtually every facet of the national agenda and that he would understand and run with good ideas presented to him. Trump is a science and technology talent repellent.”
“The first and only contact that OSTP leadership had with any member of the Trump team about the transition at OSTP did not take place until a week before the inauguration, was with an individual with no particular background in science, technology, or science and technology policy, and lasted exactly one hour. We handed over our 100+ chapter transition book and never heard a peep back. I have no idea whether anybody read it.”
–Dr. John P. Holdren, former OSTP Director and senior science adviser to Pres. Obama
Dr. Holdren, we can only hope that the Trump transition team took your 100+ chapter transition book and promptly sent it here:
If the OSTP is an unnecessary element of the swamp, Dr. Holdren is the poster child for unnecessary bureaucrats masquerading as scientists.
Likely Obama Appointee Includes Climate Change Alarmist John Holdren
Christopher C. Horner • December 18, 2008
On the heels of creating a new position for the scandal-plagued and therefore, presumably, unconfirmable Carol Browner to lord over Senate-confirmed cabinet officials in pursuit of the global-warming agenda, the former employer of leading global warming alarmist Dr. John Holdren reports that he “appears to be President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for science adviser.”
Although touted as a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Holdren was admitted through a back door called the “temporary nominating group”, a process which appears designed and has certainly been exercised to gain entry for large numbers of environmental alarmists who, it is fair to presume from this exception, would not gain election through the normal channel.
Also typically styled as a professor at Harvard, Holdren is primarily employed by the Woods Hole Research Center (an environmental advocacy group, not to be confused with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution which is a research organization…
The vocal Holdren predicted in the mid-1980s that climate-related catastrophes might kill as many as one billion people before the year 2020 but now brushes off inquiries about such failed catastrophism while continuing to sound a similar alarm. He is a longtime collaborator with none other than failed prognosticator of doom Paul Ehrlich, with whom he collaborated to hold a “Cassandra Conference” in 1988 (Cassandra is the lass from Greek mythology whose prophecies were always true and always ignored).
Oh! But CEI is biased!!! Okay, how about this?
Does being spectacularly wrong about a major issue in your field of expertise hurt your chances of becoming the presidential science advisor? Apparently not, judging by reports from DotEarth and ScienceInsider that Barack Obama will name John P. Holdren as his science advisor on Saturday. [UPDATE: Mr. Obama did indeed pick Dr. Holdren.]
Dr. Holdren, now a physicist at Harvard, was one of the experts in natural resources whom Paul Ehrlich enlisted in his famous bet against the economist Julian Simon during the “energy crisis” of the 1980s. Dr. Simon, who disagreed with environmentalists’ predictions of a new “age of scarcity” of natural resources, offered to bet that any natural resource would be cheaper at any date in the future. Dr. Ehrlich accepted the challenge and asked Dr. Holdren, then the co-director of the graduate program in energy and
resources at the University of California, Berkeley, and another Berkeley professor, John Harte, for help in choosing which resources would become scarce.
In 1980 Dr. Holdren helped select five metals — chrome, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten — and joined Dr. Ehrlich and Dr. Harte in betting $1,000 that those metals would be more expensive ten years later. They turned out to be wrong on all five metals, and had to pay up when the bet came due in 1990.
Now, you could argue that anyone’s entitled to a mistake, and that mistakes can be valuable if people learn to become open to ideas that conflict with their preconceptions and ideology. That could be a useful skill in an advisor who’s supposed to be presenting the president with a wide range of views. Someone who’d seen how wrong environmentalists had been in ridiculing Dr. Simon’s predictions could, in theory, become more open to dissent from today’s environmentalist orthodoxy. But I haven’t seen much evidence of such open-mindedness in Dr. Holdren.
Consider what happened when a successor to Dr. Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, published “The Skeptical Environmentalist” in 2001. Dr. Holdren joined in an an extraordinary attack on the book in Scientific American — an attack that I thought did far more harm to the magazine’s reputation than to Dr. Lomborg’s. The Economistcalled the critique “strong on contempt and sneering, but weak on substance”; Dr. Lomborg’s defenders said the critics made more mistakes in 11 pages than they were able to find in his 540-page book. (You can read Dr. Lomborg’s rebuttal here.)
Prior to becoming Pres. Obama’s science adviser Holdren’s claim-to-fame was as Paul Ehrlich’s science adviser in his wager with Julian Simon. Ehrlich lost… badly.
Holdren and OSTP on Swine Flu
Holdren wasted no time in topping the failed science advice provided to Ehrlich…
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Dire Swine Flu Warnings from White House
Written by Alex Newman
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology issued a dire warning Monday about the spread of the swine flu virus later this year, titled “On US Preparations for 2009-H1N1 Influenza.” It claimed that a “plausible scenario” would be “infection of 30–50 percent of the U.S. population this fall and winter, with symptoms in approximately 20–40 percent of the population (60–120 million people), more than half of whom would seek medical attention.”
While acknowledging that the true impact is impossible to predict, the report said the H1N1 virus could result in up to 1.8 million hospital admissions with as many as 300,000 requiring hospitalization in intensive care units. This would place “enormous stress” on intensive care units, with between 50 to 100 percent of beds occupied.
On an even more ominous note, the report warned of the possibility of between 30,000 and 90,000 deaths attributable to the virus — mostly among children and young adults. But to put that in perspective, the regular seasonal flu is usually responsible for between 30,000 to 40,000 deaths per year.
The CDC quickly refuted Holdren’s alarmist nonsense…
Agency Urges Caution on Estimates of Swine Flu
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. AUG. 25, 2009
ATLANTA — Up to 90,000 deaths from swine flu in the United States, mostly among children and young people?
[O]fficials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency with the most expertise on influenza pandemics, suggested that the projections should be regarded with caution.
“We don’t necessarily see this as a likely scenario,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
A press officer for the disease centers, speaking carefully to avoid a feud with the White House press office, said, “Look, if the virus keeps behaving the way it is now, I don’t think anyone here expects anything like 90,000 deaths.”
The Obama maladministration, while pushing the Obamacare agenda through Congress, chose to take Holdren’s advice rather than the CDC’s and declared a swine flu national emergency.
The 2009-2010 flu season led to a bit less than 1.8 million hospitalizations and 90,000 deaths:
Cases Defined by
But the faux crisis did help Pres. Obama barely nudge Obamacare through a Congress with near-super majorities of Democrats in both houses.
John P. Holdren: A Malthusian’s Malthusian
One has to wonder what Dr. Holdren’s CV might contain…
Holdren for Halloween (Obama’s eight-year science advisor about to go knocking on doors)
By Robert Bradley Jr. — October 31, 2016
“Some form of ecocatastrophe, if not thermonuclear war, seems almost certain to overtake us before the end of the [twentieth] century.”
– John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich
Doom and gloom—and subsequent real-world falsification—hallmark the long career of John P. Holdren, neo-Malthusian and President Obama’s beginning-to-end science advisor.
Halloween Holdren has been quiet about the outlandish in recent years because he does not want to embarrass his boss. But his many statements, beginning in the early 1970s, never disowned, remain for the record.
Today is a good time to refresh our memories of the man who just might be the scariest presidential advisor in U.S. history!
Read—but don’t be frightened. The sky-is-falling gloom of Holdren, his mentor Paul Ehrlich, and others is in intellectual and empirical trouble. From Julian Simon to Bjorn Lomborg to Indur Goklany to Matt Ridley to Marlo Lewis to Alex Epstein, the technological optimists have the upper hand in a debate that continues to rage.
After all, who could have predicted the mineral-resource boom with energy that has the other side now saying ‘leave it in the ground’? Who could have predicted how little global warming has occurred since the late 1990s (and wait until 2017 before declaring ‘the pause‘ over). And the incredible story of declining air pollution with increasing fossil-fuel usage continues.
And, despite the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident, the increasing safety of the oil industry?
Increasing supply. Decreasing pollution. Global lukewarming. Increasing safety. Decreasing ‘energy insecurity’…. Halloween not with fossil fuels!
Billion Deaths Possible!
“As University of California physicist John Holdren has said, it is possible that carbon-dioxide climate-induced famines could kill as many as a billion people before the year 2020.”
Economic Decline Coming!
Economic Decline Required!
Occupy Wall Street!
Do I Have to Prove It?
“We have been warned by our more cautious colleagues that those who discuss threats of sociological and ecological disaster run the risk of being ‘discredited’ if those threats fail to materialize on schedule.”
In-depth Holdren analysis can be found in these posts:
John Holdren in Retrospect (Part VIII on Obama’s New Science Advisor) (February 2, 2009)
John Holdren Told ‘Not to Make News’ at Confirmation Hearing(February 12, 2010)
Halloween Hangover: Ehrlich, Holdren, Hansen Unretracted(November 1, 2010)
I suppose, Dr. Holdren’s CV could be summed up as:
Wrong about everything… But, hey! At least I’m consistent!
Office of Science and Technology Policy 1976-2016: Good Riddance!
While the OSTP may not be dead, it clearly appears that President Trump has wisely chosen to allow it to wither on the vine and there is at least some visible evidence of drainage in one small corner of the swamp… Do swamps have corners?