Monday, 8 March 2010

Wow

Oh, for fuck's sake.

I suppose, in some way, you have to give Inhofe a sort of twisted, grudging degree of respect for never failing to find a new way to be more of a classless turd than he was the day before. Those of us who still nurture a spark of hope for our race of shoe-clad primates might assume there existed some kind of ceiling on this particular type of ass-hattery, but dammit if Inhofe isn't just The Little Cock Who Could. One might have thought he'd have acquired a shred of humility and more than a soupcon of reality from his disastrous one-man-truth-squad stunt at Copenhagen - and I'll once again state for the record that I don't understand how any reactionary GOP frothy-mouthed lunatic can stand on the same side as Communist China and not wonder whether he's strayed too far from the herd - but now we've gotten to the part where he starts intimidating scientists by threatening Congressional investigations.

Since we discussed McCarthyism a couple of days ago, and because this move is being referred to as "McCarthyite" as well, it's worth taking a few moments to consider the veracity of the claim. Firstly, whilst there is absolutely no doubt that Inhofe wants to prosecute these climate scientists for political gain, if someone out there actually has broken a law, then it would be ridiculous for me or anyone else to start arguing that they shouldn't be prosecuted just because the guy demanding they get busted is a worthless pricktard. I might want to argue that a given law is in itself stupid, and it's not even remotely controversial to suggest that if Inhofe wants to cast a drag net through a given profession and keep pulling 'til he catches something there are far more worthy targets, but those are separate issues.

So, let's not pretend I'm not in favour of maintaining the rule of law. Certainly, that point alone means Inhofe can at least be considered less contemptible than Kristol and Cheney. Having said that, the rule of law issue is also part of the problem, and not just because he's apparently calling for British scientists to be investigated for possible violation of American laws. Inhofe isn't telling people scientists X have violated law A, he's telling people scientists X might have violated laws A through H and scientists Y might have been in on it as well maybe.

It's from here that the McCarthyism charge stems from: the attempt to intimidate scientists by saying "We're not sure you did anything wrong, or even your mates did anything wrong, but we're watching you anyway". It's guilt by association in a situation in which no-one's guilt has even been established yet (and Inhofe's "evidence" for this crap is just as ill-conceived as his usual ramblings), and in some cases already dismissed by internal investigations (which, yes, may not be particularly convincing, I don't know). It shouldn't need pointing out that the potential damage a Congressional investigation could do to a scientist, even if their cleared of all wrongdoing, could be significant. These aren't high level politicians we're dealing with. They don't have convenient access to microphones. They're unlikely to have the money to deal with protracted legal battles. And it's not like they weren't politically radioactive before this crap kicked off. You don't have to work in academia to realise that there's only so hard your faculty is going to be willing to fight the government over whether or not you keep drawing your paycheck.

All of which I suspect Inhofe knows - frankly, I think he's counting on it - and he's doing it anyway; working on the principle that if he kicks over enough ant-hills, he might find some evidence to convict someone of something (I particularly like his suggestion that Congress' best use of time is to check whether individual scientists have violated Federal policy; I guess if he can't use taxpayer dollars to incarcerate someone, he can at least get them fired). It's working backwards; starting off with a suspect and trying to track them back to a crime. I understand that the whole point of Congressional investigations is that they don't have all the necessary facts, that's what investigations exist for, after all, but Inhofe's unwillingness to give more than a laundry of suspects - which from what I've read are mainly considered suspects by dint of being leaders in the field - and demand that each one be run through a checklist of crimes reveals the true message here: "Nice scientific discipline you have here, shame if something were to happen to it."

2 comments:

Senior Spielbergo said...

Firstly, whilst there is absolutely no doubt that Inhofe wants to prosecute these climate scientists for political gain, if someone out there actually has broken a law, then it would be ridiculous for me or anyone else to start arguing that they shouldn't be prosecuted just because the guy demanding they get busted is a worthless pricktard. I might want to argue that a given law is in itself stupid, and it's not even remotely controversial to suggest that if Inhofe wants to cast a drag net through a given profession and keep pulling 'til he catches something there are far more worthy targets, but those are separate issues.

Just to take this bit - actually you can quite legitimately make that argument (at least in respect of our law). There is such a thing as the public interest test when it comes to make a decision to prosecute which was summed up nicely in 1951, when Lord Shawcross (Attorney General for England) made a classic statement on public interest :

“It has never been the rule in this country - I hope it never will be - that suspected criminal offences must automatically be the subject of prosecution” (House of Commons Debates,Volume 483, column 681, 29 January 1951).

And this idea carries through in respect of the CPS decision to prosecute: see here

Just because something is illegal doesn't mean you have to prosecute them - If it's so obviously a dumb idea in the circumstances you can quite reasonably say no.

SpaceSquid said...

Well, I said I'd be ridiculous to argue they shouldn't be prosecuted based on thinking Inhofe is a douchebag, but I see what you mean. And in general I would entirely agree that it does not automatically follow that a crime should be prosecuted (inadvertently injuring people you are in the proces of saving springs to mind as an example).

In this case, though, that's not a call I feel comfortable making. Without looking up the precise details of the laws Inhofe is claiming may have been broken, and having a closer look at the "evidence" for that call, it might seem overly defensive to argue "and even if they have committed a crime, it might not matter". At the very least, that seems like an argument against not prosecuting once an investigation has concluded, rather than not investigating to begin with.

Which isn't to say I don't agree with the point, I'm just saying it maybe didn't belong in the original post.