The Republicans versus the truth

Politicizing science, lying to investigators, and giving an taking bribes have two things in common: all involve dishonesty, and all have are standard Republican operating procedure under George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and Tom DeLay.

Larry Greenfeld, a career statistician promoted by GWB to run the Bureau of Justice Statistics, has been transferred and demoted for complaining about political pressure to soft-pedal research results about racial differences in police behavior during traffic stops. Tracy Henke, the official who ordered that a press release be changed to omit the interesting findings, has been nominated for a senior job at the Department of Homeland Security, and asserts she can’t remember anything about it, despite her handwritten instructions on the draft.

Political pressure no science is now an established pattern in the Bush II administration, and the Republican-controlled Congress has varied from supine indifference to active support of Lysenkoist behavior throughout the government.

We’re seeing in Iraq today the consequences of letting the poicy dictate the facts rather than the other way around. The impact on domestic policy is more subtle, but not less disastrous even in the medium term.

There’s a common element between the Abramoff/Noe/ Norquist/Cunningham/Delay/Rove scandals and incidents like this one: dishonesty. The dominant faction of the GOP has converted lying, cheating, and stealing into a set of governing principles.

Perhaps now would be a good time to remind all of our conservative and Republican friends of a great maxim of the common law: Qui tacet, consentit. Or, in the vulgar tongue, “Silence gives consent.”

Footnote The report found that Blacks, Latinos, and non-Hispanic whites are subjected to traffic stops at similar rates, but that blacks were more likely to be searched, arrested, or have force used againt them, while Latinos were more likely to get traffic tickets. The report drew no inferences from the disparities, and it would be far too quick to jump to the conclusion that discrimination must be the only explanation. Perhaps non-Hispanic whites are, on average, more deferential to police. Or perhaps non-Hispanic whites who are stopped are substantially less likely than Blacks to have done something worthy of arrest, in which case the crime-reduction value of traffic stops could be increased by stopping more Blacks and fewer non-Hispanic whites.

The point is that you can’t start asking those questions until you’ve noticed the ethnic disparities. Ms. Henke apparently wanted the press release to simply say that the overall rates of being stopped were comparable among the three groups, a thoroughly uninteresting finding leading to no useful follow-up questions.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com