Monday, June 27, 2005

Wall Street Congressional Science

Kevin Drum alerted me to this righteous takedown of the Wall Street Journal's recent editorial (subscription only) on global warming science.

I'm inured to outrageously false propaganda from the WSJ, followed by serious, factual rebuttals on stray websites, so I said a little thank-you to RealClimate and went about my business (as usual). You'd think I would learn.

Now (via Atrios) Chris Mooney reports that Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the house Committee on Energy and Commerce, has decided to barrage climate scientists mentioned in the WSJ hackjob with letters demanding all kinds of information about themselves, their data, their funding sources, associations, and so forth.

He's ginning up a PR assault on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Third Assessment Report (the 'IPCC TAR') and a witch-hunt against climate scientists whose work supports the consensus view - all based on a Wall Street Journal editorial.

I am not a lawyer.

Atrios says that the appropriate response to this is "Bite me, Congressman", but he's not a lawyer either. Looking over Barton's letters to scientists, he appears to be making demands for information under color of the authority of the committe he chairs. As in "pursuant to Rules X and XI of the U.S. House of Representatives" and so forth hrrmph hrrmph.

Rule X has to do with what matters fall under the jurisdictions of the various committees, and I'm sure Barton is on firm ground there. Rule XI, though, goes into detail about how the committes can conduct their business, and (though I haven't actually read the whole thing, you understand, and of course I AM NOT A LAWYER) I can't find anything in there that gives the chairman the authority to demand squat from any private citizen.

I found some passages that seem to give a sense of how things ought to be done:
[Page 534]
A committee may act only when together, and not by
separate consultation and consent, nothing being the report (or
recommendation) of the committee except what has been agreed to in
committee actually assembled (see Jefferson's Manual at Sec. 407,

[Page 554]
Power to sit and act; subpoena power
(m)(1) <> For
the purpose of carrying out any of its functions and duties under this
rule and rule X (including any matters referred to it under clause 2 of
rule XII), a committee or subcommittee is authorized (subject to
subparagraph (3)(A))--
(A) to sit and act ... and
(B) to require, by subpoena or otherwise, the attendance and
testimony of such witnesses and the production of such books, records,
correspondence, memoranda, papers, and documents as it considers

[Page 556]
The authority conferred in clause 2(m)(1)(B) to require
information ``by subpoena or otherwise'' has not been interpreted to
authorize depositions and interrogatories. That authority must be
conferred by separate action of the House (see Sec. 800, supra).

And so forth hrrmph hrrmph.

I expect industry whore congressmen to create false controversies. When they abuse their power at the expense of individual citizens, I call it
Main Entry: Mc·Car·thy·ism
Pronunciation: m&-'kär-thE-"i-z&m also -'kär-tE-

Function: noun
Etymology: Joseph R. McCarthy
: a mid-20th century political attitude characterized chiefly by opposition to elements held to be subversive and by the use of tactics involving personal attacks on individuals by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges

[UPDATE]: It seems that the Government Printing office has only gotten around to publishing the House rules from the 107th Congress (cited above) on the web. Rule XI of the 109th Congress is slightly different, but I can't be arsed to edit all that gibberish. The point still stands, in a mushy, wholistic, liberal sense.

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