Domestic Policy

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  Former Bush Aide Declines To Answer Senate QuestionsJuly 11, 2007 10:26 Loyal even after leaving the White House, President Bush's former political director Sara M. Taylor obeyed his instructions and declined to answer Congress' questions Wednesday about her role in the firings of federal prosecutors.

But Democrats insisted that the decision to cooperate with their subpoena -- or not -- is hers.

"It is apparent that this White House is contemptuous of the Congress and feels that it does not have to explain itself to anybody," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said as he opened the hearing. "I urge Ms. Taylor not to follow that contemptuous position and not to follow the White House down this path."

Taylor, who met briefly with Leahy before the hearing, said she would answer only limited questions to comply with her former boss' orders, unless a court orders her to comply with Congress instead.

"While I may be unable to answer certain questions today, I will answer those questions if the courts rule that this committee's need for the information outweighs the president's assertion of executive privilege," said Taylor, 32, who left her White House job two months ago.

  Ex-Surgeon General Faults White HouseJuly 11, 2007 07:31 President Bush's first surgeon general testified Tuesday that his speeches were censored to match administration political positions and that he was prevented from giving the public accurate scientific information on issues such as stem cell research and teen pregnancy prevention.

"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried," Dr. Richard H. Carmona, who was surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, told a congressional committee. "The job of surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation — not the doctor of a political party."

Early in the administration, when the issue of federal funding for stem cell research arose, Carmona said, he felt he could play an educational role by discussing the latest scientific research. Instead, he said, he was told to "stand down" because the White House already had made a decision to limit stem cell studies. He said administration appointees who reviewed his speech texts deleted references to stem cells.

Carmona's remarks were the latest in a series of complaints from government scientists about what they say are administration efforts to control — and sometimes distort — scientific evidence in order to support policy decisions.

NASA scientists have complained, for example, of political pressure to tone down warnings about global warming. Environmental Protection Agency officials have complained that technical information on such subjects as power plant emissions and oil drilling have been ignored.

Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, recently dissented from the administration's position by saying its restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research were holding back progress and should be lifted.

Scientists outside the government also have complained about what some call the administration's "war on science."

  Are American Scientists An Endangered Species?July 02, 2007 21:29 There is little doubt that the United States has some of the best science and engineering schools in the world. So why should we be concerned that the American scientist might become an endangered species?

The main problem is that too few Americans are enrolling in these programs. Although the number of students enrolled in science and engineering graduate programs in the United States has increased by 25 percent from 1994 to 2001, the number of U.S. citizens enrolled in these programs has declined by 10 percent during that period. Contrast this with India, Japan, China and South Korea, where the number of bachelor’s degrees in the sciences has doubled and the number of engineering bachelor’s degrees has quadrupled since 1975.

In the United States, 17 percent of all bachelor’s degrees are awarded in the sciences and engineering, while in China, 52 percent of four-year degrees focus on STEM areas. This trend is just as obvious in graduate programs: U.S. graduate degrees in the sciences make up only about 13 percent of graduate degrees awarded in this country. In Japan, South Korea, Sweden and Switzerland over 40 percent of the graduate degrees are awarded in science.

The numbers indicate that the American scientist population is not healthy, especially not in comparison to scientists in other countries. This will impact America’s ability to retain its
place in the global (scientific and technological) food chain. What could be responsible for this decline? My money is on the changing habitat of the American scientist , climate change, and the introduction of exotic species.

  To The Courts, Then, On Behalf Of The Constitution!July 02, 2007 21:21 The founder of the Republic, conscious of the excesses that resulted when King George III and his Parliament cooperated, endeavored to put the legislative and executive branches of the United States at odds with one another.

Jefferson believed: "The concentrating [of the legislative, executive and judicial powers] in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government."

To combat such despotism, the first democrat said, "The powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others."

Jefferson's frequent rival, John Adams, agreed with him on this point, arguing that, "[Checks and balances] are our only security."

During the first six years of the Bush-Cheney interregnum, the system of checks and balances established at the opening of the American experiment effectively collapsed. Republicans, who generally controlled the legislative branch of government during the period, were more concerned with party loyalty than their duties to the Republic. Democrats, who briefly controlled the Senate, operated as a compromised opposition party under the cowering "leadership" of House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

Since the November, 2006, elections, which marked something of a breaking point in the pattern of executive dominance that had been in operation up to that point, there has been much talk about the restoration of the separation of powers required by the Constitution.

Only now, however, with the declaration by Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, that he will take the Bush-Cheney White House to court if the administration continues to refuse to cooperate with subpoenas, does the talk begin to have meaning.