Any Energy Dept employees turned into newts now better

Donald Trump's transition team backed away Wednesday from that questionnaire sent to the Energy Department asking for the names of any employees who had worked on projects or attended conferences involving climate change, insisting it was all a big mistake, and no, there was never any thought of purging employees, don't be silly, why would you think that just because the New Boss says it's a hoax invented by China? Gosh, you sciencey types are paranoid!

The Energy Department had refused to play ball, issuing a statement saying it would of course work with the new administration toward a smooth transition, but also saying it wouldn't squeal on employees who'd worked on science the Trumpers didn't like, so please sit on it and spin, you jerks. Only they said it nicer. It was one of the finer refusals to back down since the Battle of the Bulge, when Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe responded to the German surrender demand by sending back a reply simply reading "NUTS!"

And apparently it worked. Instead of an angry early morning tweetstorm promising to unleash hell on the troublemakers, the Trump transition team's reply was to insist the questionnaire had been sent by some newbie and was not official, no, not at all:

"The questionnaire was not authorized or part of our standard protocol," Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said. "The person who sent it has been properly counseled."

We would prefer not to think about what "proper counseling" consists of in Trump Tower. It may involve electrodes.

The Reuters account notes, not without what sounds like some subtle snark, that "Spicer declined to comment further on the team's protocols."

A spokesperson for the Energy Department said Wednesday the Trump transition team's reversal on the questionnaire was a hopeful signal the transition would proceed smoothly.

Nonetheless, the Trumpers' questionnaire was enough to give scientists a good scare; since the memo went out late last week, scientists have been making a concerted effort to copy government-collected climate data onto independent servers, just in case somewhere down the line the Trump administration tries to elminate funding for climate research:

The efforts include a “guerrilla archiving” event in Toronto, where experts will copy irreplaceable public data, meetings at the University of Pennsylvania focused on how to download as much federal data as possible in the coming weeks, and a collaboration of scientists and database experts who are compiling an online site to harbor scientific information.

“Something that seemed a little paranoid to me before all of a sudden seems potentially realistic, or at least something you’d want to hedge against,” said Nick Santos, an environmental researcher at the University of California at Davis, who over the weekend began copying government climate data onto a nongovernment server, where it will remain available to the public. “Doing this can only be a good thing. Hopefully they leave everything in place. But if not, we’re planning for that.”

Yes, if that sounds a little like people trying to escape the Republic of Gilead for Canada, it's not a bad comparison. It's not paranoid when the president-elect is appointing climate change deniers right and left to his cabinet. If the Trump administration goes medieval on science, scientists could do worse than to act like the monks who preserved ancient "pagan" texts. Maybe there'll be a job boom for calligraphers.

Not long before the Trump disavowal, two Democratic members of Congress had warned Team Trump to be careful about thinking they could go messing with career civil servants:

Democratic U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone and Elijah Cummings sent a letter to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the head of the transition, saying the team is entitled to select political appointees who share Trump's climate views, but that any effort to marginalize civil servants on the basis of their scientific analysis would be an "abuse of authority."

So hooray for now -- the purges are on hold at least until Trump is actually inaugurated and he can find a way to really make heads roll. The man's all about efficiency.

[Reuters via The Verge / 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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