New at Forbes.com: RFK Jr. to EPA?

by Walter Olson on November 8, 2008

I’ve got a new opinion column just out at Forbes.com on the reports that president-elect Obama may be considering America’s Most Irresponsible Public Figure®, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Earlier this week I posted on the topic here and here (welcome Jonathan Adler/Volokh, Ron Coleman/Likelihood of Success readers).

More: Orac advises writing letters to the Obama transition team urging them to consider the harm to their credibility should a figure such as RFK Jr. get the nod. His comments section includes many good examples of such letters, and Kathleen Seidel, autism blogger extraordinaire, contributes one at her site as well. See also this perhaps unintentionally ironic dispatch by MSNBC’s Alan Boyle on Thursday listing as among president-elect Obama’s “top tasks” “taking the ideology out of scientific issues” and quoting Chris Mooney, author of “The Republican War on Science,” to the effect that “the war has ended, and science has won”. The Center for American Progress’s ScienceProgress site, to which Mooney contributes, doesn’t seem to have weighed in on the RFK Jr. matter.

And: tons of mostly helpful blog reactions. At ScienceBlogs, besides Orac, there are the influential P.Z. Myers/Pharyngula (“another irrational purveyor of woo and fluffy substanceless hysteria”), Chad Orzel, Uncertain Principles (“his highest-profile activity in recent years has been the promotion of nutbar conspiracy theories”), Mike the Mad Biologist (“every bit as ridiculous as creationism”), Around the Clock (“He is the typical paranoid, conspiracy-theorist, hyperbolic quack. A kind of person shunned, ignored and marginalized by the Democratic Party for decades now for two good reasons: such people’s judgment cannot be trusted, and such people give the party a bad name”), James Hrynyshyn (“More worrisome is the fact that Obama on at least one campaign occasion, pandered to the anti-vaccine crowd by describing the science on the subject as “inconclusive” despite loads of studies that show no link”, PalMD, ERV, Science Woman, Effect Measure, SunClipse, and Mark Hoofnagle. Plus: Skepchick, DarkSyde @ DailyKos, Rondi Adamson (“gives me the creeps…The guy’s a complete wingnut”), Wendy Williams, Steven Novella, Neurologica (“This would be an unmitigated disaster for science in government … Putting a known antiscientific crank in this position is inexcusable”), The Amateur Scientist (“an absolutely terrible idea … the guy’s bad news”), Brandon Keim, WiredScience (“America doesn’t need more political officials who skew science to fit personal beliefs.”), Thinking Outside, Science Avenger, Colossus of Rhodey, Politico. Liz Ditz has a great roundup of critical opinions.

Further: Edward John Craig at NRO “Planet Gore” here and here.

{ 5 trackbacks }

The Volokh Conspiracy
11.08.08 at 5:03 pm
Why, yes! I am his son, in fact! « Likelihood of Success
11.08.08 at 8:34 pm
Should Obama’s Cabinet Include RFK Jr? « SCIENCE-BASED PARENTING
11.09.08 at 7:48 pm
OpenMarket.org » Archive » Wacky Obama Adviser Slated for Attorney General?
11.12.08 at 11:16 am
EPA not going to RFK Jr.
12.11.08 at 7:17 pm

{ 11 comments }

1 Walter Olson 11.08.08 at 9:45 am

I should also note that the Forbes editors picked the title for the piece, I didn’t.

2 Kathleen Seidel 11.08.08 at 12:15 pm

Walter, thanks for the link and the compliment. Believe me, the horror is bipartisan.

3 William Nuesslein 11.09.08 at 9:24 am

The Forbes.com piece was excellent. Thank you, Mr. Olsen.

The talk show host Lionel on Air America made much of Govenor Palin’s ignorance, and then he endorsed Mr. Kennedy for the EPA post. It makes you wonder.

Perhaps, Mr. Kennedy’s name is being floated early to get him out of the way. I disspare that President Elect Obama is hanging around with the nuts who appeal to Mrs. Clinton. When it comes to plain old fashion stupidity, Mrs. Clinton gives Mrs, Palin a run for the money.

4 Ron Coleman 11.09.08 at 9:55 am

William, there’s nothing to wonder about regarding “Lionel.” He’s an utter clown.

But don’t call Hillary Clinton “stupid.” We wish!

5 Ed 11.09.08 at 2:23 pm

Obama picked the loathsome, hateful and mega-crooked Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff (Chicago Machine multi-millionaire Emanual was on the Fannie Mae staff while they cooked the books, and he lives tax free in a mansion owned by the “Rahm Emanuel Foundation.”)

Obama is certainly going to appoint that psychotic charlatan Robert F. Kennedy Jr to the EPA.

Carol Browner, the delightful Clinton era head of the EPA, would be a far better choice.

6 Rebecca Watson 11.09.08 at 6:05 pm

Thanks for the link to Skepchick, but mostly thanks for spreading the word to a wider audience! This is an important issue, especially for those of us who value science and critical thinking. And especially-especially for those of us who value science and critical thinking and who also happen to want nothing more than a successful start to the Obama presidency.

7 Wendy Williams 11.10.08 at 7:44 am

As a journalist, I never had any strong views about the Kennedy family, one way or another, until I began writing about the Cape Wind case on Cape Cod. What I found out while writing my book really concerned me. RFK Jr. seemed capable of making the most outlandish statements about wind power, but clearly did not understand even the most basic facts.

8 Brian G 11.11.08 at 6:49 am

Its amazing how many people can say the Wind Farm in Nantucket Sound is a good idea but do not know all the facts and have never even been on the Sound themselves. We can’t let a private developer take a beautiful natural resource and destroy it with these large windturbines that won’t even directly benefit the residents that they will directly impact.Once this is done we can’t undo it.

9 Anthony Henry Smith 11.11.08 at 4:01 pm

The job at the EPA calls for someone with a keen sense of both ethics and science. Kennedy is not that person.

The following letter was written in support of Robert H. Boyle (founder of Riverkeeper and author of The Hudson River, A natural and unnatural history) and others who resigned from Riverkeeper rather than support R. F. Kennedy, Jr.’s compromise of the principle that ethics must never be separate from science.

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
Fishkill

(for The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers)
(Fishkill Ridge Community Heritage, a separate organization, has also supported this letter from their beginning.)

10 Barney Fine 11.18.08 at 4:37 pm

As some may recall, it was Robert Kennedy, who blabbered that God was taking out his revenge on Mississippi because its Governor(Haley B), did not believe in Global warming, in the wake of Katrina.
He made that sutpid remark at a time he thought Katrina had missed New Orleans. He apparently is ignorant of the force of winds, that lifted the water in a storm surge on the Lake, that swept down the 17th Street canal, taking out faulty Corps of Engineers levees, leading to Lake Orleans.
Robert Kennedy would be a tragic disaster at EPA.
But, he would burn a lot of jet fuel on all the lear jets he cavorts around in, as he makes his sermons to others. What a pious phony.
Is that going to be put under “CHANGE”.
Change in that category would be to bring the USA to its knees economically, but that is kool with the Carbon CAP options lot, who like to play bait and switch with other people’s life.
As some may recall, it was JFK who brought America the Vietnam war, as people like Robert Kennedy got passes, as the front lines were filled with others(AMERICANS), who had to pay the ultimate prices.

11 Tom Wood 11.22.08 at 3:56 pm

If I may, Mr. Fine, you misspoke about JFK and RFK. JFK inherited the Vietnam War, was never in favor of it, and had issued an executive order to begin bringing troops home just before his assassination in Dallas. It was LBJ who canceled that order and began the huge buildup of American troops in Vietnam. RFK was Attorney General at the time; a position that was never subject to the draft. RFK did the best work on breaking up Organized Crime of anyone before or since.

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