February 08, 2006
Gig 'Em

The news that the presidential appointee (George Deutsch) in the dustup over restricting statements by researchers at NASA has further ethical concerns of his ownis really not too surprising. Except at high levels, appointee vetting is probably not as strong as it might be - campaigns run on the backs of volunteers, and there are many of them to reward. If they fall in with your base's beliefs, they are an asset, not a risk. So when Deutsch's statement that he was a graduate of Texas A&M University was shown to be false, his resignation was to be expected. This was an error of demonstrable fact, rather than merely insisting on the word 'theory' being attached repeatedly to the Big Bang idea, or limiting reporter access to George Hansen for presenting data in conflict with the administration's policies. Those are "differences of opinion", apparently - thus more meaningful to our current administration's shaky stand viz-a-viz science, but not a firing offense.

What is good to see is that this outing was brought to light by a fellow TAMU graduate, Nick Anthis, who writes a weblog on science, politics and policy from his posting in Oxford UK as a Rhodes Scholar.

I was nominally a two percenter during my years at TAMU (note to employers: I did receive my degree), inactive in many school activities beyond the campus radio station, and some work with Amnesty International I otherwise restricted my activities to friends, books and work.

But my distrust of organized genuflection to tradition is not the same as my deep respect for core values. So this is probably as fine a time as any to remember the Aggie Code ("An Aggie does not lie, cheat or or steal, or tolerate those who do").

And so, a new daily mantra for today to reflect upon.

[EDIT: I've deleted 3 duplicate comments in this thread and edited one by Brian which provided George Deutsch's phone number.]

[Update: In the comments Tim Harris feels that my posting was naive, probably because of some hasty editing of mine this morning. My point is that the current administration does not consider sidestepping truth in research or scientific debate to be a firing offense, but the embarrassment of a falsified resume is. I have a long involvement with scientists and empirical thinkers, and the reasoned debate about facts and how to act upon them - which I feel is too often sidestepped by politicians (particularly those in the current administration who I may disagree with on interpretations) - is a way forward for our culture. Moreover, Hansen and Anthis have discussed that facet of this issue with more direct engagement than I can, and I prefer to leave that to them. Mere repetition is an echo chamber. ]

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Posted by esinclai at February 08, 2006 06:45 AM |

Your remarks about the Deutsch business are foolish. An incompetent who for political reasons tries to tell people who know better what to do deserves to be fired. The resume business is a mere excuse: the man should never have been put in that position in the first place. Hanson is right, and you shouldn't try to gloss over the problem in that breezy way.

Posted by: tim harris on February 8, 2006 08:02 AM

The idiot's contact phone number at NASA Media Relations is:
ScienceHQ George Deutsch [DELETED 2006-02-08]

And Tim Harris is more than a bit wrong here..

Posted by: Brian on February 8, 2006 11:05 AM

Hey, guys, thanks for stopping by! And remember, the only one who gets to call my husband "foolish" is me. Nothing "breezy" about that.

--cranky spouse

Posted by: Anne on February 8, 2006 08:59 PM

ph33r the wroth of ye editrix.

My word, I skip my RSS in the morning for a day and all hell beaks loose!

Posted by: mike on February 8, 2006 10:47 PM
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