Silly Talk
Sense and Nonsense

Opinion / Anchorage Daily News / February 6, 2003


Some days you wish there could be a law against politicians saying exactly the opposite of what they mean.

The impulse comes to mind every time Gov. Frank Murkowski trots out a new political thrust under the cover of "sound science."

When he made a big change in the makeup of the state Board of Game in order to appoint people more sympathetic to predator control, he said his team would use sound science and not politics to make its decisions. Anybody who's ever followed the Game Board in action -- and especially the people Gov. Murkowski was trying to please with these appointments -- knows he meant just exactly the opposite. The new board will use scientific research to justify its decisions whenever it possibly can, just as the old one did. But the reason these appointments are so hotly contested is that the board is empowered to overrule the research on policy grounds and will ignore the science -- or find different science -- if it has enough policy desire.

When he started the current donnybrook by proposing to put state permitting functions under one agency -- the Department of Natural Resources -- Gov. Murkowski said permit reviewers would use science and not politics to make their decisions. Then he turned around and precisely put the lie to that by saying the change was part of his agenda "to get the economy moving again."

Come again? Sound science? Spurring the economy is a worthy goal, but it's not science -- at least not environmental science, or habitat science, or game management science or any other form of biology. The governor talks nonsense when he uses spurious talk of science as a cover story for baldly political actions.

It's a free country. A governor can say spurious things, if he wants. The best reason we don't have a law against politicians talking nonsense is that the cure would be worse than the disease.

And, anyway, there's a much better cure: common sense. Citizens and legislators are just as free to use that as the governor is to abuse it.

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