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US Government Restricting Research Libraries 753

An anonymous reader writes: "In a move that has been termed 'positively Orwellian' by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Executive Director Jeff Ruch, George W. Bush is ending public access to research materials at EPA regional libraries without Congressional consent. This all-out effort to impede research and public access is a [loosely] covert operation to close down 26 technical libraries under the guise of budgetary constraint. Scientists are protesting, but at least 15 of the libraries will be closed by Sept. 30, 2006."
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US Government Restricting Research Libraries

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  • no surprise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frymaster ( 171343 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:23AM (#16007191) Homepage Journal
    the u.s. government over the last several months has been a massive binge of re-classifying previously declassified historical documents. i think they've done maybe 50,000 of them. this administration has a culture of secrecy and limit of access to information and this move is nicely in keeping with that ideology. my source on the document reclassification is here [].
  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:28AM (#16007225)
    The Republican War on Science []

    Despite the inflammatory name, the book doesn't assert that Republicans are inherently anti-science, but it is a chronicle the past few decades of politicization of science, and how even though Liberals do their own part to misrepresent science, the overwhelming lions share of open distortion percieved by the overwhelming majority of scientists has been unfortunately solidly Republican. It's a rather impressive, well-documented book that I highly recommend showing a trend of scientific limitations and games like today's story.

    Ryan Fenton
  • Mass Exodus program? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:32AM (#16007259) Homepage Journal
    Could we arrange an information exodus program -- sending in people with scanners to go in and copy all of the data possible in the next 15 days?
  • Nothing new... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:33AM (#16007269)
    As a fellow government worker, I can attest to the fact that all this "consolidation" stuff is not just restricted to the Libraries & EPA stuff. We're feeling it in pretty much every branch, some worse than others.

    Wars are expensive.. And the money's gotta come from somewhere.. Rather than raising taxes (which I'm sure they'll do anyway), they're cutting expenses elsewhere... Rather than fire people, they're "consolidating". Sounds better, but it's the same thing.
  • by Wilson_6500 ( 896824 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:41AM (#16007333)
    Has any other US president ever done as much damage to the institution of science in the US as Bush has?
  • Uh, according to the article you cite, Bush is taking action BEFORE Congress has had a chance to act on his budget proposal. He isn't waiting to get approval. Furthermore, they say that they will digitize the 80,000 documents beyond boxed and stored, but I'll be very interested to see how quickly that will happen and how well they will be indexed. And the point that institutional memory will be lost when librarians are laid off is not addressed at all. The article is a lot more accurate than you make out.

  • by shadowmas ( 697397 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:49AM (#16007397)
    What came into my mind as i read this was a documentry i once saw on Discovery channel which talked about china.

    China used to be one of the most advanced civilisations in the world. They developed so many stuff before any other country. Then suddenly some idiot in there decided to cut off china from the rest of the world and not only stop building technically advanced ships but actually destroy its unmatched fleet of ships. Shortly afterwards Britan was able to conquer the country using the technology that chinese themselves invented.

    The fact that US seems to be closing libraries makes me wonder if its another version of the same events.
  • by sloth jr ( 88200 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:04AM (#16007527)
    Whoever marked the parent +5 informative, please have a hanker at the two articles referenced. CXI's article is very light. The PEER article outlines concerns primarily from the enforcement branch of the EPA. Of the two articles referenced, the PEER article articulates
    concerns presented by the very people who use the library. The Library Journal article CXI references indicates that the EPA is moving to enact budgetary proposals that have not been approved by Congress. While it is possible that Bush had nothing to do with this decision, he does appoint and presumably broadly direct the head of the EPA, Stephen Johnson.

    While it appears to be true that an initiative to digitize and make available some documents (this will surely cost more than 2 million dollars in labor, storage costs, and network overhead related to retrieval and backup), it appears that only EPA-generated documentation will be available through interlibrary loan (I don't know how much of the library's content is EPA-generated documentation, and how much is third party documentation).

    You are correct that not all libraries are closing. 10 out of 26 libraries are being closed, and other regional library services and hours are being reduced. These actions appear to be consistent with Bush's unwillingness to tighten environmental standards or actively seek prosecution of environmental polluters.

    sloth jr
  • Re:Can you read? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by belmolis ( 702863 ) <billposer@a l u m . m> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:05AM (#16007534) Homepage
    The EPA is its own entity. It makes decisions on its own based on a plan that it generates. Do you really think Bush walked in to the EPA headquarters and said "shut it all down now!"? Try and read the story completely next time.

    If you think that because an article attributes a decision to "the EPA" that means that the decision was not made by political appointees implementing administration policy, you're incredibly naive. Bush may well not have been personally involved in this decision, but it sure looks like a political decision, not something that EPA scientists and lawyers have come up with.

    As for the scanning, did you also miss the fact that you can order whatever material you want via library loan?

    Yep, I missed it because it isn't in the article. What the article says is that "all EPA-generated materials will continue to be available by inter-library loan. That excludes material not generated by the EPA. You need to be more careful about accusing people of not reading the article. I've obviously read it more carefully than you have. Furthermore, even if this does mean that the boxed materials will be available by interlibrary loan, how easy do you think it will be to find what you need, and how long a delay will there be in getting the boxed materials out of storage? I know from personal experience that it can be a real impediment to research to have to wait several weeks or even days to get something out of storage, and that often it is difficult to identify what you need if you can't go look at it on the shelf online.

  • Re:Bush (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RoboOp ( 460207 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:20AM (#16007655)
    Yes, President Carter. Double-didgit inflation, taxes so high that they broke the econom, etc. were all Carter. Carter has done far more for the US after his presidency than he ever did for the country while in office.

    First, 'double-didgit' inflation was initiated under Nixon, partially to pay for Vietnam, but mostly a result of Nixon's choice to make the dollar fiat, as opposed to redeemable for gold. Inflation stayed in double-digits under Ford, whose idea to beat inflation consisted of wearing buttons with "Whip Inflation Now" printed on them. Inflation was tamed under Carter thanks to Volker jacking up the interest rate. An unpopular solution, but sometimes its necessary to take the punch bowl away. Reagan took the credit, and dumped Volker for Greenspan when he had the chance to restart the 'play now pay later' budget monkeyshines.

    Speaking of Greenspan, its funny how Carter gets pegged as raising taxes when payroll 'deductions' were doubled by Reagan under Greenspan's insistence that the additional money would make SS fiscally sound. Reagan ended up wasting the additional money for the Star Wars boondoggle.

    Another thing Reagan gets credit for is strengthening the US military. It was infact Carter who brought back the use of Special Forces after the cuts in the programs under Ford led to the failed Desert Eagle mission.

    Carter's mistakes - maybe funding the Afghanistan resistance, which gave us Bin Ladin. The Carter Doctrine, which did nothing to discourage America's dependence on the Middle East's oil, and possibly not looking 'Presidential' enough to win another four years.

  • Re:Calling Bullshit (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dausha ( 546002 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:41AM (#16007864) Homepage
    "Bush has destroyed a huge budget surplus and left trillions in debt to my kids. His deliberate neglect has more or less wiped one whole American city right off the map."

    Um. No. The bugest surplus was already in the trillions. The present government is only continuing in the big spending behavior the Democrats made famous. The last time our nation had a budget surplus (i.e. had no debt), it was 1964. Then came the Johnson-era bribe-the-poor spending which Liberals insist can't go away. I remember comparing numbers at one point that showed that if you removed all that Great Society spending (and its decendants), then we would still have a budget surplus. This comparison predated Bush, so I'm not sure of its present accuracy.

    For those who complain about the current debt, then remember what you know about personal finance. To end debt you've got to stop spending first. So, stop complaining about the lack of government-funded fetal stem cell research and underspending on welfare, medicare, socialized medicine, and social security.

    And, I remember the Carter Era, too. While he was elected because of Nixon's behavior, he did a lousy job. Other posters were right about his inadequacies and lack of leadership. While Congress in the Reagan era gave us bigger deficits, he did pull us out of the abyss. Double-digit inflation ended because of his leadership.
  • About 12 minutes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tony ( 765 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:43AM (#16007876) Journal
    Let's see. The "War on Terror" has cost about US$430,000,000,000 so far over the last 5 years. This figure only takes into account the US investment, and does not include the cost to Iraq.

    So, let's assume that money has been evenly spent over the last five years (it hasn't, as the first year or so were taken up by fabricating a reason to go into Iraq, and operations in Afghanistan, which had been hiding bin Laden, have always been secondary). So, that gives us a per-minute estimated cost of:

          430,000,000 / ( 5 * 365 * 24 * 60 ) = 163622.526636225 or so.

    So, US$2,000,000 would give us about 12.2 minutes.

    That's an interesting way to break down the cost of the "War on Terror."
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:43AM (#16007877)
    Here's my question - is access to any information actually going to be lost? What resources do/did the EPA libraries provide? If it was just access to public data, I would think the Internet really would reduce the need for much more expensive libraries - so long as all the information is still available. In fact, if fraction of the budget cut were re-routed to beefing up the online archvives, access might even be improved, while still cutting cost.
  • Re:Calling Bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Malakusen ( 961638 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:48AM (#16007918) Journal
    The levee system was in disrepair because the federal funding for upkeep had been slashed to pay for the war in Iraq.

    The Louisiana National Guard were all deployed to Iraq, stationed at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, while Katrina was ravaging the area.

    Bush is the commander in chief and the Army Corps of Engineer fall under him.

    Responsibility is his.
  • Re:Bush (Score:5, Interesting)

    by masklinn ( 823351 ) <slashdot DOT org AT masklinn DOT net> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @12:05PM (#16008077)

    And perhaps Clinton could be accused of being distracted from foreign affairs, having become preoccupied with his own?

    Yeah that's probably why he'd been working with other nations on counter-terrorism issues since 1995, and why dozens of (potential) attentats against american lands and allies were busted under his presidencies.

    As far as Iraq goes, he stricly kept with the trade restrictions, and if you're bothered with Saddam's disregard for international laws, why ain't you disgusted by Bush&co's disregard for both national and international laws?

    Hell, even on Saddam, he was a freaking bastard, but at least he was our bastard.

  • Re:Bush (Score:3, Interesting)

    by masklinn ( 823351 ) <slashdot DOT org AT masklinn DOT net> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @12:13PM (#16008157)

    No he didn't, what he did was get a country with a negative economic balance (i.e., which was losing money and had to borrow) into a country with a positive economic balance (in Clinton's later years as a president, the USA were earning money and could reimburse their debts or something)

    In came Bushie, and the USA's national debt is now above 8500 billion dollars (increasing at nearly $2b/day)

  • Re:Calling Bullshit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mark J Tilford ( 186 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @12:31PM (#16008305)
    How do they compare to Grant, Harding, and Nixon?
  • Re:Calling Bullshit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bob Uhl ( 30977 ) <> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @12:34PM (#16008334) Homepage
    On the other hand, Bush has destroyed a huge budget surplus and left trillions in debt to my kids.

    Actually, that's false. USA Today revealed that Clinton's 'surplus' was really a $484 billion deficit []. The print version included a chart (which I cannot find) showing that Bush's deficits are actually better than Clinton's.

  • Re:Bush (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @01:34PM (#16008833)
    Free speech

    A 1-minute search on Google reveals this [].
  • Re:Bush (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sfjoe ( 470510 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @01:36PM (#16008856)
    Not true. Bush inherited an economy that was tanking before he even took office.

    Utter bullshit and Republican propaganda. At worst, the economy was at a plateau. During the 2000 campaign, Bush insisted the economy was sliding but the numbers didn't back up his claims.

    Worst. President. Ever.
  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @01:37PM (#16008871) Homepage Journal

    Getting vaguely back on topic, the US federal government has imposed an anti-R&D approach for decades.

    Ask anyone in the US trying to do medical cannabis research if they've had any luck obtaining research materials, permits, or approval to do useful studies. In the meantime, the federal government denies the validity of all "foreign" research in Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, etc.

    What was the purpose of the IBM breakup a few decades ago, if not to stop a company from leveraging their own investment in R&D to continue growing their business? In theory it was because IBM had grown to a near monopoly, yet no action is taken against Microsoft when they are far closer to a monopoly than IBM ever was. Obviously market dominance was not the reason for the breakup.

    Pharmaceutical research is often forced offshore because US regulations don't permit the kind of testing that would be needed to determine the efficacy of some drugs. Plus that means the US government and US pharmacorps don't have the embarassment of another national Thalidomide debacle -- future mistakes will be kept out of sight in foreign nations.

    Bottom line is the US government has done a great deal to ensure that true R&D doesn't happen, because what is a great new product/service line to the owner is a huge threat to the status quo that pays the lobbyists and thereby the government's members. R&D is profitable for new companies, but it's a loss for the ineffective and staid "competition" that cuts R&D budgets in favour of short-term profits to satisfy the stock market.

    Therein lies the crux of the matter: The US corporations and federal government, or rather their management, will happily let anything crumble and die, provided they can turn a profit now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @01:44PM (#16008937)
    Take a look, cheney/ []

    This was the *revised* numbers, he had them reestimated when it showed he plunged the economy into the ground.
    I for one wish a better Republican had been elected.
  • Re:Bush (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SeanFromIT ( 990059 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @01:47PM (#16008968) Homepage
    We won what? And if there was something we won, why are we still there years after "Mission Accomplished"? We lost more soldiers after "winning" than before...really now, what's the point?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @01:54PM (#16009036)
    "The Bush Admin's open hostility to non-military science is no secret."

    Fixed that for you. Now if someone could just clue in the fascist chimp to the notion science is a single body of interconnected knowledge and not modules you can politically choose to discard as the Soviets did in the mid-twentieth Century. Don't dwell on it long though because comparisons between the regime philosophies can become uncomfortable.
  • Re:Bush (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rossifer ( 581396 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @02:04PM (#16009114) Journal
    You want the 'cause of terrorism'? Get your head out of fairytales about "freedom" and look what the US/UK axis has done to destroy LIBERTY throughout the world for more than 75 years.
    While I agree that what you mention is the most likely provocation for worldwide ill will against the US, don't forget that terrorist action also requires a moral justification, and in this case, that moral justification comes from a literal reading of the Koran. The willingness of people to indiscriminately kill innocent people cannot be separated from the influence of fundamentalist religious belief.

    The US government has pissed a lot of people off, and some of those people are willing to follow religious leaders who place no value on the lives of people who don't share their beliefs. That's the recipe for modern terrorism.

  • Re:Bush (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @02:40PM (#16009423) Journal
    The willingness of people to indiscriminately kill innocent people cannot be separated from the influence of fundamentalist religious belief.
    Don't pin it on the fundamentalist religion. The same result has been observed in Africa (Rwanda? the Congo? Algeria? Liberia? I could go on...), without an organized fundamentalist religion providing the moral justification. In the fundamentalist Moslem case, what we are seeing is religion used as a tool by those in power to both secure their hold on it and to increase it. This drama has played out all over the world throughout history, whether it's been political, tribal, national, or religious idealogy that's abused in this manner.
  • by Grendel Drago ( 41496 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @03:21PM (#16009800) Homepage
    That would be a cogent and valid point... if the "middle" could, by acquiring money (and where did you get that the same people trash-talk the rich as tell the middle class to mindlessly accrue wealth?) become rich. To put it in perspective, consider the top 1% [], the truly rich, the "creamy layer", who had a quarter of the assets in this country in 1995. (I'll eat a lot of crow if that number's gone down since then, but let's say it's still that.)

    Average income (the table breaks down the averages into two segments; I'm recombining them) is about $500k per year. Why, that's only a bit more than ten times what the median family makes; all we middle-class folk have to do is work ten times as hard!

    Oh, wait, the assets average $6.8 million. So given that the median lifetime pre-tax income is about $1.8 million (wild guess there, $40k, working from 20 to 65)... hey, all we have to do is work for nearly four lifetimes without spending a cent. Eminently reachable! I have a hard time seeing the difference between the rich and the middle class sometimes myself!
  • Re:Bush (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @04:23PM (#16010304)
    The economy has not been "fixed" unless you mean "fixed" in the same sense that my dog is.

    Individual surface indicators are often used by journalists and politicians to create a false impression. They like to hold up job growth numbers, but the question you should ask is "well, if 50,000 people lost their jobs averaging $60,000 and they plus 10000 other people took on new jobs averaging $45,000 did we go forward or backward?

    Another tricky little number is "unemployment". Just because unemployment goes down doesn't mean the economy improved. It could mean that more people are unemployed longer and have simply given up even looking for a job. It could also mean that a large number of menial labor jobs opened up that do little to help the economy.

    Furthermore you have to contend with pockets of overpriced real estate that have left overzealous buyers in bad short term positions where if they needed to sell they would gain extremely little profit from their real estate, or may even lose money if they have some sort of exotic loan. Then there's the massive amount of deficit spending fueled by the ever-present desire of people to live at a certain level of comfort, even if it's beyond their means.

    Here's an interesting tidbit you probably won't hear on too many news sources because it's too "hard" for silly people like us to understand: despite the fact that we've had an overall economic upturn, poverty over the same period of time has not changed at all. This COULD be a silly little statistical anamoly, but a much more plausible explanation is that the economy is improving.... but only for people who are already in a good position. In other words, it's very likely a strong indicator that the process of middle class deterioration is accelerating and forcing its victims into either lower income brackets or wealthier statuses.

    The economy is not "bad" in the sense that it's on the verge of collapse or that most people are going to suffer drastically in the near future, but it's definitely in a spot where alarms should be going off to get people's attention before it's too late.

    Also, Bush did not inherit a "falling economy", Bush inherited the tale end of an age in which people were optimistic and content, an age which was badly damaged, ironically, by the 2000 Election fiasco and then utterly destroyed a year and a half later. Bush inherited an economy that was on the verge of a self-correction to ward off investors that were making a very large number of irrational investments. There is nothing he could have done to prevent it, very likely, nor should he have done anything if he could have.

    what Bush did do, however, is take a projected surplus and hand it out to wealthy individuals who were very unlikely to invest it in ways that would spur the economy in anything but the most temporary way (rich investors tend to focus on maintaining wealth rather than gaining it. If you want to spur an economy, give money to the middle class because they will either spend it on commodities or reinvest it in riskier places such as start ups and self-employment in an attempt to take their "free" money and turn it into wealth).

    In and of itself this was not "bad" per-se, though some people may feel that giving handouts to the rich is socially irresponsible when you have other problems to deal with. The trouble is this left him with only a fairly balanced budget that he immediately destroyed by becoming a spendthrift. On top of that he had to borrow to pay the costs of recovering from 9/11 and fighting in Afghanistan and then on top of THAT he started the war in Iraq which has proven to be an enormously painful strain on the economy. Not only did it cause a temporary dip in confidence, Iraq is not a good investment. Thinking back to WWII in Japan and Germany you see two example of where investment in a ravaged nation was good. In both cases we gained trained partners and access to additional resources which helps the free market by opening new avenues for trade.

    Iraq, however, has
  • Re:Technically ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by radtea ( 464814 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @08:22PM (#16012123)
    In some ways I think his current actions with the libraries and Iraq are good examples of Bush's presidency. Using Executive action and Executive order to create sweeping changes in the way things are done

    The leitmotif of the Bush presidency has been cowardice.

    1) Don't use the veto, which is public and open to congressional challenge. Use signing statements, which are extra-legal and can't be challenged. What does the couragous President choose? Open disagreement and possible over-ride, or hiding his disagreements where they can't be challenged?

    2) Attack before your enemies actually have any capacity to defend themselves. Isn't it interesting that Bush chose to attack Iraq, which he knew or reasonably ought to have known did not have WMDs, and has not chosen to attack North Korea, which he knows does have them? It's almost as if he was only willing to take on the fictional threat while letting the real one get away, literally, with murder on a scale that makes Saddam look like a piker.

    3) Gerymander electoral districts rather than face fair elections.

    4) Appoint friends rather than competent administrators to key posts in your government. After all, loyalty to you and to the party is far, far more important than loyalty to the country, and if they are loyal to you they can't be any kind of a threat to you. And to a coward, keeping threats at bay is the most important thing.

    5) Abandon due process, open government, "speed and public trail" and generally all of the IVth, Vth and VIth ammendments to the Constitution, because they are fundamentally about exposing the workings of government to the light of day, and Bush is terrified of scrutiny.

    Fill in a few of your own--there are no shortage of examples.

    Closing libraries under false auspices is in keeping with all of this. It would take actual courage to openly make the EPA's job as much harder as this will do. So Bush et al have opted for stealth and dishonesty rather than an open, courageous statement of policy.

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.