If you want an illustration of the extent of weeding of political hacks out of top US government positions that's going to be necessary when George Bush is no longer president, here's one. It's a National Public Radio interview with NASA administrator Michael Griffin, who was responding to a critique, by Gregg Easterbrook, of NASA priorities for manned travel to the Moon and Mars given other pressing issues that it could be tackling.
Besides repeatedly mispronouncing Easterbrook's name, Griffin's main lurch into deranged incompetence came with the discussion of climate change. NPR has provided some key excerpts --
I understand that the bulk of scientific evidence accumulated supports the claim that we've had about a one degree centigrade rise in temperature over the last century to within an accuracy of 20 percent. I'm also aware of recent findings that appear to have nailed down — pretty well nailed down the conclusion that much of that is manmade. Whether that is a longterm concern or not, I can't say.
Do you have any doubt that this is a problem that mankind has to wrestle with?
I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change. First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.
Thus, a case study in climate change obscurantism, from the guy in charge of the equipment that could tell us a lot about climate change. Note the phrasing of his global warming admission, designed to make it sound as small as possible -- 1 degree Centigrade over 100 years. Note the sudden interest in the metric temperature scale, when he knows his listeners think in Fahrenheit. Note the lack of interest in the bleak projections for future climate change.
But note most of all the bizarre ethical position that it's "arrogant" for current generations to take any actions that could affect the climate of future generations, since those generations could prefer the hothouse that we'll be bequeathing to them. Nick Stern's climate change report got criticised for its ethical position that the current generation should essentially assume that future generations have the same preferences and weight as the current one in making climate change decisions, but Griffin seems to think that one can't take any position at all. And yet somehow he's willing to assume that they will want that manned station on the Moon and trips to Mars.
[Update: More on Griffin's lunacy here and here]