Note: Andre Gregory and Wally Shawn are not cardinals, and have never dined with Scott Pruitt.


One of Scott Pruitt's favorite hobbyhorses in his first year as EPA administrator -- and one of his excuses for jetting around the world for the fun of it -- was the dream of holding a great big debate on the science of climate change. He wanted to model the debate on the "red/blue exercises" held by the military, which are used to simulate battles between forces representing the US and a hypothetical enemy, like Russia and China. Which is a great way to do military exercises, since the teams model real tactics, equipment, and capabilities. It's a shitty way to do science, of course, because science isn't war, and the "sides" when it comes to climate change are "science" and "people who distort science." While red/blue simulations use fictional names for the designated baddies out of diplomatic tact, the military never plans for wars against comic-book nations with Vibranium weapons. The Pentagon holds no simulations for invasions of Wakanda, Latveria, or even Nambia.

As reports by the Washington Post and New York Times revealed this week, Pruitt's EPA sought out a whole bunch of "experts" from rightwing think tanks and fossil fuel industry apologists like the Heartland Institute (home of those "the unabomber and Saddam Hussein believe in global warming" billboards), or the CO2 Coalition, which says there's no such thing as greenhouse gases and that high levels of atmospheric CO2 is mostly a nifty thing for plant growth, and therefore a boon for farmers, who obviously won't have to worry about climate change at all.

The White House ultimately put the kibosh on plans for a red/blue climate debate, but only after Team Pruitt had done a heck of a lot of planning for it. Which is where another load of Scott Pruitt Travel Bullshit comes into play. As New York Times reporter Eric Lipton revealed in a document dump on Twitter yesterday, a FOIA request for EPA documents shows Pruitt used part of his Roman Holiday trip to the Vatican last June to meet with climate science-denying Cardinal George Pell for a big dinner date. Pell is the former archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney, and is currently in charge of the Vatican's financial affairs. Or at least he would be, if he hadn't taken a leave of absence to return to Australia for his trial on charges of molesting children in the 1970s and 1990s.

Despite knowing Pell was under investigation for sex crimes involving children -- the formal charges were brought just three weeks after the dinner -- EPA staffers nonetheless went to a lot of trouble to set up the meeting between Pruitt, Pell, and others, including another religious right luminary, the Federalist Society's Leonard Leo. As Lipton notes, not a single externally released EPA schedule for Pruitt's trip to Rome mentioned the dinner with Pell. But there's no way Pruitt can pull an Erik Prince and claim he just saw the climate-denier cardinal at the bar and asked him over to share some Assoluto di Calamaro con Ceci since they both happened to be in the same spot. Instead, the FOIA'd emails, and follow-up interviews by NYT climate reporter Lisa Friedman, indicate the planning for the trips started in May 2017, and dinner with Pell was on the agenda from the get-go.

The dinner, at five-star restaurant La Terrazza, wasn't cheap -- meals start at $240 per person, before wine and other extras. But you're certainly not going to take a highly respected cardinal (who's under investigation for sex criming) to Pizza Hut, now are you?

The dinner wasn't the only thing on Pruitt's EPA visit to the Vatican -- on page three of NYT's document cloud, we see his team planned to inspect the Sistine Chapel's air filtration system, a very important environmental-ish job -- but Pell was a big draw. In a 2006 speech in Florida, he took a moment away from his focus on the horrors of the Islamic threat to castigate climate science, which of course is a pagan atrocity (just like Islam!):

Some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness, of Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. Belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect, although it is no guarantee of Utopia, no guarantee that the continuing climate and geographic changes will be benign. In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Pell also argued in 2007 that as a Christian leader, it was his duty to "point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes" and that good Christian leaders "should be allergic to nonsense" like climate science. And in 2011, he gave another speech explaining that CO2 is what plants crave, arguing that

CO2 was "not a pollutant, but part of the stuff of life" and that if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was doubled, then "plants would love it".

The speech was full of cherry-picked denier talking points, so of course Pruitt absolutely had to consult with Pell so he could learn more about arguments you can find any given day on Twitter. Not surprisingly, Pell has also denounced Pope Francis's encyclical on climate change, because who really knows science?

At the meeting with Pruitt, the two discussed a Wall Street Journal op-ed that had argued for a red-blue climate debate, long a priority of outfits like Heartland, and during the meal, Pruitt's aide Samantha Dravis emailed a priest who'd helped to arrange the visit, asking him to print out a copy of the opinion piece for "His Excellency."

Funny thing, though: Not a single one of the four versions of Pruitt's schedule mention the meeting with Pell. Can't imagine why; maybe to ensure the Cardinal wouldn't have to be threatened by those radical environmentalist hit squads who kept threatening Pruitt by drawing a mustache on his picture.

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[NYT / WaPo / Guardian / WaPo]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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