Friday, November 7, 2008

Oh No, Obama!

This has been making the rounds on skeptical and political blogs for about a day now, but I thought it important enough to comment on myself. (And if you check out my IMDB profile, I also thought Tank Girl was important enough to comment on myself.) Apparently Barack Obama is considering appointing environmental activist Robert Kennedy, Jr. as head of the EPA. While it might seem like a good idea to appoint someone who cares about the environment to be the head protector of said environment, giving RFK, Jr. the position is an absolutely terrible idea. Tragic, even, if it actually happens. See, Little Bobby is kind of a nut. He's an anti-vaccination conspiracy theorist, an election conspiracy theorist, and an unabashed admirer of Venezuelan dictator and part-time political comedian Hugo Chavez. In other words, the guy's bad news. He can't think critically, and his decision making skills are suspect at best. He's about as anti-science as they come. Orac has posted a link to the contact information for Obama's transition team, and I suggest you send them a message about this potentially horrible decision. Here's what I wrote:

First of all, I'd like to congratulate President elect Obama and Vice President elect Biden on winning a landslide victory based on a campaign of honesty, integrity, and respect for the American people. I am a fervent supporter of Sen. Obama's and am looking forward to a new and exciting chapter in American politics.

The men and women appointed to Sen. Obama's cabinet and to the heads of various federal agencies will play a very large part in shaping this future. With the threat of global warming looming over the entire planet, environmental issues have understandably been a major focus of Sen. Obama's campaign. This is why the appointment of the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency is so important.

I was disturbed and dismayed to hear recently that Sen. Obama is considering environmental activist Robert Kennedy, Jr. for this post. While Mr. Kennedy has undoubtedly proved a staunch defender and champion of environmental causes through the years, I feel his tendency toward anti-scientific, conspiracy-minded thinking will prove nothing but a hindrance to the goals of the EPA. Mr. Kennedy has been a vocal critic of vaccination programs, spreading false and misleading information about the harmfulness of vaccines despite all scientific evidence that vaccination programs are not only safe, but are the single most important contribution to public health in the history of medicine. While his anti-vaccination stance may not have a direct relation to environmental protection, it illustrates a startling lack of critical thinking and a hostile attitude toward scientific consensus.

Mr. Kennedy has also been a mouthpiece for false conspiracy theories about the efficacy of the 2004 presidential election, suggesting among many other claims, that the election was somehow stolen by George W. Bush. While the defeat of President Bush would have certainly been welcome, these conspiracy theories once more demonstrate a hostile attitude toward evidence and reason.

Finally, Mr. Kennedy is a vocal supporter of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez and has praised Mr. Chavez as a visionary leader despite the fact that Mr. Chavez has manufactured elections, taken private property away from his own citizens, and participated in the kind of coup-based politics that are nearly the opposite of American ideals and values. Again, this belief on Mr. Kennedy's part is just another sign that he does not have the critical decision making capacity to effectively head such an important federal agency as the EPA.

I'm sure that Mr. Kennedy is a decent person who honestly believes in what he says and trusts that he has the best interests of Americans and the rest of the world's population in heart. However, he clearly does not respect or understand the role of scientific evidence and rational decision making important to effective leadership. I'm afraid that as head of the EPA, Mr. Kennedy would be susceptible to the same kinds of false arguments and misguided beliefs that have clearly shaped his world view today. For these reasons, I hope and trust that Sen. Obama will think twice about appointing Mr. Kennedy to this position or to any other position of authority in the federal government.

Brian Thompson

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