The election is over. It's time to work. Let's start by focusing on the Kennedy/EPA thing.

Nov 06 2008 Published by under Do Something

It's been almost 36 hours since the networks called the election for Obama. That's enough of a honeymoon. There's work to be done.

There are widespread reports that President-elect Obama is seriously considering appointing Robert Kennedy Jr. as head of the EPA. The appointment does seem to have some benefits - including, as Politico points out, some political ones for Obama - but Orac is right. It's a bad idea.

Kennedy's active participation in the anti-vaccination movement is a threat to public health. It also demonstrates, quite clearly, that he is willing to actively promote positions in the face of clear and convincing scientific evidence that those positions are wrong. I think most of us can agree that those are not traits that we'd like to see in the person responsible for running a US Government scientific agency.

The politicization of science is bad no matter who does it. It wasn't just bad when the Republicans were involved. It will be just as bad if it's a Democrat doing it.

I suspect that we'll see other articles on other blogs discussing this appointment, particularly if an announcement is made in the next week or two. But if there's one thing we really should have learned from this election, it's this: words alone don't get the job done.

They're certainly not going to get the job done if we just talk among ourselves. If we want to effectively oppose this nomination, we need to bring in the entire scientific community. And we need to do it now. If the appointment is announced, it's a done deal. There aren't a lot of Democrats out there who are going to want to hand Obama an embarrassing public defeat on a high profile nomination right out the bat, and that number takes a dramatic drop when doing so would also involve simultaneously pissing off the Kennedys and Clintons.

So if you want to work to try and head off this potential problem, I'd suggest starting soon. One thing that might help is if you bring the issue to the attention of three or four people you know who would be interested in this, but who don't read blogs. Have them bring in more of their friends.

Try to get them to get in touch with anyone they know who is involved in one of the major scientific organizations, or who is an editor for a major publication, or has political contacts. Let's try to get those folks to put out the word that a Kennedy appointment to the EPA will cause problems down the road.

3 responses so far

  • Rev Matt says:

    I think Kennedy is a sure thing. He's a prominent Dem who is well known to the public for his interest in science (sure, he gets it 100% wrong, but he's interested in it). And the HuffPo/KOS worlds love him and have zero interest in scientific accuracy as long as the person is supporting their ideological agenda. This is why I'm not a Democrat, because they are just as committed to forcing their religious views on the public as the Republicans are. The Dems just have a broader range of religious views.

  • Justin says:

    Why don't you try to coordinate something across scienceblogs.com to get your readers to write in to news stations the way you guys sometimes crash polls? At the very least Fox News should be happy to run with it.

  • Anthony Henry Smith says:

    This letter was first published in the Putnam County News and Recorder, Cold Spring, New York, on August 30, 2000 and they have carried it on their website ever since for which they have my thanks. (AHS, 2008)
    Letters:
    Supports Former Riverkeeper Board Members' Action
    Editor,
    The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers, Inc. supports Robert H. Boyle, former president of the Riverkeeper, Inc. and former Riverkeeper, Inc. board members John Fry, treasurer, Nancy Abraham, Kathryn Belous Boyle, Pat Crow, Theresa Hanczor, Robert Hodes, Ann Tonetti and Alexander Zagoreas in the action they have taken in resigning from Riverkeeper in opposition to the hiring of a convicted environmental felon to serve in the position of staff scientist on the staff of Riverkeeper.
    In issuing this statement of support, The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers wishes to emphasize that ethics cannot be separated from science and that the environmental movement will prosper best in an atmosphere of demonstrated personal responsibility and earned mutual respect.
    We encourage individuals as well as environmental organizations to join us in similar expressions of support for the principled stand taken by Boyle and fellow board members in their defense of the ethical integrity of the environmental movement here in the Hudson River Valley.
    Boyle and 8 of the 22 Riverkeeper board members resigned from Riverkeeper, Inc. in protest of the hiring of William Wegner. For eight years Wegner operated a ring of smugglers who stole bird eggs directly from the nests of protected cockatoo species in Australia. Wegner and his ring then smuggled the eggs by air to the United States. Birds that hatched and survived were then sold for as much as $12,500.00 each. A federal judge accepted Wegner's plea of guilty to charges of conspiracy and tax fraud and sentenced him to five years in prison. The judge also found that Wegner had attempted to obstruct justice by committing perjury at the trial of a co-defendant Wegner paid a $10,000.00 fine.
    Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has stated that everyone deserves a second chance and notes that he himself had been given a second chance in that he had once been convicted of a drug offense.
    We note, however, that Kennedy's offense was essentially a victimless crime while Wegner's offense was a crime against the environment, the people of Australia, the people of the United States and against the birds. In order to avoid detection during the flight, smugglers flushed newly hatched chicks down the plane's toilet
    Although Wegner has been convicted and served his sentence, nothing he or anyone else can do will correct the damage he has done or make his victims whole again.
    Wegner's prison sentence seems to have done little to improve his ethical sense. The resume Wegner submitted to Riverkeeper accounts for his period of incarceration without referring to the fact of the incarceration itself Wegner describes work he performed and omits the significant information that he performed this work while he was serving time as a prison inmate.
    Kennedy overstepped his position as attorney for Riverkeeper when, in November of 1999, he hired Wegner. Boyle terminated Wegner after learning of the hiring and upon review of Wegner's resume, court records and media accounts. The matter came to a climax at a board meeting on June 20th when Kennedy insisted that Wegner be rehired over Boyle's objection.
    While we hope Riverkeeper continues to work to produce changed human beings who think and act differently in regard to the Hudson River and all that pertains to it, we also recognize the primary mission of Riverkeeper is not the rehabilitation of Wegner or of those like him.
    Sincerely,
    Anthony Henry Smith
    Poughkeepsie, New York
    (for The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers and Fishkill Ridge Community Heritage)