CARB scandal also shames California media


Nov. 5, 2012

By Chris Reed

It was four years ago yesterday that the California Air Resources Board sent out a letter that marked the beginning of an amazingly juicy and revealing scandal that the Los Angeles Times and San Jose Mercury-News chose to ignore — a scandal that the Sacramento Bee later tried to pretend it hadn’t ignored.

In the Nov. 4, 2008, letter, state Secretary for Environmental Protection Linda S. Adams responded to S. Stanley Young of the National Institute of Statistical Sciences, based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Young had questioned the expertise of the authors of an air board report on the purportedly extreme health risks posed by tiny airborne pollutants contained in diesel emissions. Adams wrote that Young was off-base:

“Regarding the professional background of the authors, the lead author and project coordinator, Hien Tran, holds a doctorate degree in statistics at the University of California at Davis …”

Except he didn’t, as I established seven weeks later. (I had been contacted by UCLA epidemiologist James L. Enstrom, who worked with Young in questioning Tran’s credentials.) But for months, no California newspaper, except the editorial page of my newspaper, the U-T San Diego, covered this undeniable scandal. This greenout occurred even though Rough & Tumble had my blog item on Tran’s deception as its lead story for several hours on Dec. 23, 2008.

Truth kept from CARB leaders for nearly a year

Incredibly, most of the governing board of CARB didn’t hear about Tran’s deceit from the staff of air board chair Mary Nichols for nearly a year.

What followed the events of December 2008 was a slow-unfolding debacle in which Enstrom became a martyr for scientific integrity and Tran turned out to be the perfect symbol of CARB arrogance and media incompetence, unprofessionalism and bias.

Tran did have a statistics Ph.D. — a mail-order document (shown above) from an online degree mill with a mailing address that matched a New York City UPS office and that was associated with a fugitive pedophile named Avrohom Mondrowitz.

But Tran didn’t get fired by CARB. He only got suspended without pay for two months and demoted. He now makes $87,492.52 a year as a CARB pollution analyst.

Given that the rules for diesel particulates that Tran crafted were costly and controversial, isn’t this a perfect storm for a scandal gleefully detailed by a media eager to heap scorn on some really bad public servants? How can the pedophile link not be irresistible?

Media were air board’s partner in deceit

Well, when you’re as deeply in the green tank as most of the people covering CARB, it’s plenty resistible.

(The San Francisco Chronicle did a solid job. But, incredibly, it didn’t depict “Thornhill University” as a diploma mill. It called it a “distance learning” institution.)

The L.A. Times has never mentioned Hien Tran in its pages. The Mercury-News never covered the scandal either, with Tran only mentioned in two columns by non-Merc writers.

And when the scandal finally broke wide open, the Sacramento Bee — the newspaper of record for state government — tried to rewrite history. In December 2009, after CARB’s governing board publicly confirmed Hien Tran’s lies, Bee columnist Dan Walters said the scandal had received “a couple of brief media mentions.” In his front-page story, Jim Sanders of the Bee said that Tran’s lies had been detailed by “bloggers.”

Actually, as Nexis confirms, I’d written about it over and over again on the pages of the UT San Diego — a total of 10 editorials and columns. Lois Henry, star columnist for the Bakersfield Californian, had also covered it thoroughly. I pointed this out to several people at the Bee. None thought it was worth correcting. Why? Because the Bee’s account made the Bee look good, but not the truth.

This is your mainstream media, California. I don’t know what we did to deserve this.

I was asked on a radio show a few months ago how on Earth reporters could actually promote the bizarre CARB claim that arbitrarily increasing the cost of energy via AB 32 would somehow help the economy.

I replied that nothing is beneath California’s environmental journalists — starting with those at the L.A. Times and Mercury-News.

Consider the amazingly juicy basics of the Tran scandal:

* Costly, controversial pollution rules were crafted by a guy who lied about his scientific background.

* The liar’s mail-order degree came from a bogus institution linked to a fugitive pedophile.

* The liar not only didn’t get fired, he continues to write state regulations.

* His leading academic critic did get fired (by UCLA).

* The boss of CARB didn’t tell members of the governing board about the scandal until forced to nine months later by comments made at a public hearing.

Air board boss the luckiest woman in the world

If the L.A. Times and Mercury-News didn’t think this was worth sharing with their readers, their reporters and editors are capable of infinite distortions on behalf of their green gods and their friends at the air board.

CARB Director Mary Nichols is the luckiest woman on Earth. In any responsible organization, her handling of the Tran scandal gets her fired. But here in California, she’s a media hero who could soon become a Cabinet member if President Obama wins re-election.

If that happens, I hope someone brings up Hien Tran in the confirmation hearings — so the L.A. Times and Mercury-News can ignore him all over again, and the Sac Bee can pretend once again in its coverage that its staff wasn’t part of a shameful media cover-up.


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