Guest Post by David Middleton
More improper activity from the Million Dollar Bureaucrat…
A Scientist’s Misguided Crusade
By JOE NOCERA
Published: March 4, 2013
Last Friday, at 3:40 p.m., the State Department released its “Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement” for the highly contentious Keystone XL pipeline, which Canada hopes to build to move its tar sands oil to refineries in the United States. In effect, the statement said there were no environmental impediments that would prevent President Obama from approving the pipeline.
Two hours and 20 minutes later, I received a blast e-mail containing a statement by James Hansen, the head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA — i.e., NASA’s chief climate scientist. “Keystone XL, if the public were to allow our well-oiled government to shepherd it into existence, would be the first step down the wrong road, perpetuating our addiction to dirty fossil fuels, moving to ever dirtier ones,” it began. After claiming that the carbon in the tar sands “exceeds that in all oil burned in human history,” Hansen’s statement concluded: “The public must demand that the government begin serving the public’s interest, not the fossil fuel industry’s interest.”
As a private citizen, Hansen, 71, has the same First Amendment rights as everyone else. He can publicly oppose the Keystone XL pipeline if he so chooses, just as he can be as politically active as he wants to be in the anti-Keystone movement, and even be arrested during protests, something he managed to do recently in front of the White House.
But the blast e-mail didn’t come from James Hansen, private citizen. It specifically identified Hansen as the head of the Goddard Institute…
Yet what people hear from Hansen today is not so much his science but his broad, unscientific views on, say, the evils of oil companies.
For a midlevel scientist at the Goddard Institute, what signal is Hansen sending when he takes the day off to get arrested at the White House? Do his colleagues feel unfettered in their own work? There is, in fact, enormous resentment toward Hansen inside NASA, where many officials feel that their solid, analytical work on climate science is being lost in what many of them describe as “the Hansen sideshow.”
Hansen should be fired and prosecuted for misusing his office and title as a NASA director in an effort to push his political agenda (the Hatch Act).
The Hatch Act grew out of nineteenth-century concerns about the political activities of federal employees. As early as 1801, President Thomas Jefferson issued an Executive Order that said federal workers should neither “influence the votes of others, nor take part in the business of electioneering.” He saw such activities as “inconsistent with the spirit of the Constitution.” Jefferson was primarily concerned with what government employees did while in office; subsequently, concerns developed in another area. Throughout the nineteenth century, appointments to the federal bureaucracy were viewed as the natural spoils of political success. The prevalent awarding of jobs for political loyalty created a so-called spoils system and, ultimately, a reaction against it.