Special counsel warns against ‘any effort to chill scientific research’ amid climate concerns

Dec 27, 2016

By Chris Mooney

The Office of Special Counsel, an independent U.S. agency that protects whistleblowers and investigates prohibited practices that affect government employees, declined this week to further investigate a questionnaire sent from the Trump transition team to the Energy Department.

The memo asked for the names of staffers who attended international climate change meetings or interagency meetings related to the economic consequences of climate change.

In a letter to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Carolyn Lerner, the special counsel, noted that the Trump transition team had said the questionnaire “was not authorized” and that “transition officials are not considered federal employees” legally.

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7 comments on “Special counsel warns against ‘any effort to chill scientific research’ amid climate concerns

  • @OP link – However, Lerner also elaborated on the kinds of practices that will be prohibited once the Trump government (like any government) takes over, noting that “any effort to chill scientific research or discourse is inconsistent with the intent of the” 2012 Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.
    In early 2017, Lerner said, the office will “contact the incoming heads of all agencies and offer training on the whistleblower law, the Hatch Act, and the other laws enforced by OSC,” as part of a program to train and certify government employees and agencies for compliance with whistleblower laws.

    Best of luck with training Trump appointees to competently follow and comply with laws on science, respect for professional integrity, or respect for the truth!!!!

    I think that could be quite a challenging task!

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  • In a letter to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Carolyn Lerner, the special counsel, noted that the Trump transition team had said the questionnaire “was not authorized” and that “transition officials are not considered federal employees” legally.

    If they are not federal employees, by what “authority” are they acting? – or like Trump, are they just amateurish posers with delusions of grandeur?

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  • I see that a study of the value to investors and society of top elite executives, is rather lower than their own media promoted estimates, and their earnings, in what is laughingly called “performance-related pay!


    The link between what bosses are paid and a company’s financial performance is “negligible”, new research finds.

    The median pay for chief executives at Britain’s 350 biggest companies was £1.9m in 2014 – a rise of 82% in 11 years – the study by Lancaster University Management School found.

    However, performance as measured by return on capital invested was less than 1% during that period.

    The report’s authors said the findings suggested a “material disconnect”.

    The study, commissioned by the investment association CFA UK, said the increase in executive remuneration was largely driven by performance-based pay.

    It also said the metrics typically used to gauge company performance, such as total shareholder return and earnings per share growth, were too short termist.

    The research suggested the need for “a more refined discussion about the type of performance measures employed” rather than remuneration levels and performance-related pay arrangements alone.

    Will Goodhart, head of CFA UK, said: “Too few of today’s popular approaches … genuinely align senior executives’ pay with the economic value that they create.”

    Chief executives of companies in the health care sector were the best paid, on an average of £2.9m, with those in the “basic materials” and oil and gas sectors on £2.2m, and telecommunications at £2.1m.

    Bosses in the lowest-paid sectors included technology on £1.3m and industrials (£1.1m), which the authors said were “hardly trivial amounts but significantly lower nonetheless”.

    The study comes after government outlined its plans to make companies justify high levels of executive pay in November.

    Prime Minister Theresa May said she wanted to stop an “irresponsible minority” of companies acting badly and ensure “everybody plays by the same rules”.

    Among the measures under consideration are pay ratios, which would show the gap in earnings between the chief executive and an average employee.

    Shareholders would also be handed more powers to vote against bosses’ pay – although an earlier proposal to force companies to put workers on boards was dropped.

    According to a recent study by Vlerick Business School, UK executive pay is the most generous in Europe. Chief executives are paid on average 50% more than in Germany, the next best-paying country.

    However, shareholders are increasingly hitting out at excessive pay, with investors in BP, Smith & Nephew and Anglo American all voting against deals this year.

    Helena Morrissey, chair of Newton Investment Management who was guest editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, said lessons from the financial crisis had not been learned.

    “Despite acknowledging that group-think played a big role in causing the financial crisis, many of those at the top seem to have either been oblivious or dismissive of the risks of the widening gulf,” she said.

    “Executive pay has kept on rising, and leaders have behaved as if it were business as usual.”

    Fantasy levels of pay for elites – particularly elites in non-scientific sectors, is perhaps a reflection of the topsy-turvy leadership in the modern world!

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  • The problem with Trump’s Transition Team and with his cabinet, is that most of them are not only “incompetent”; they are ANTI-COMPETENT – with some even malevolent, towards the departments and specialisms where they have been put in charge!

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  • Further to #6, I see that employing fundamentalists and conspiracy theorists who lack basic research skills, does produce results which would be comical, if they were not statements from people places in positions of responsibility!


    Trump aide cites non-existent ‘massacre’

    Kellyanne Conway, President Donald Trump’s senior adviser, slipped up by talking of the “Bowling Green massacre” in an interview defending the administration’s immigration restrictions.

    In fact, though two Iraqi-born men living in the Kentucky city were jailed in 2013 for plotting to aid attacks against US soldiers in Iraq, there was no massacre at Bowling Green.

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