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Senate Confirms Climate Denier With No Scientific Credentials To Head NASA (nytimes.com) 529

On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Trump's NASA nominee Jim Bridenstine, seven and a half months after being nominated to lead the agency. "The Senate confirmed Mr. Bridenstine, an Oklahoma congressman, as the new NASA administrator in a stark partisan vote: 50 Republicans voting for him and 47 Democrats plus two independents against," reports The New York Times. "The vote lasted more than 45 minutes as Republicans waited for Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona to cast his lot." Slashdot reader PeopleAquarium writes about some of Bridenstine's anti-LGBT and non-scientific views: Bridenstine ran a planetarium once, and peddled a debunked argument made by climate change skeptics, claiming that global temperatures "stopped rising 10 years ago." He said "the people of Oklahoma are ready to accept" an apology from then-President Barack Obama for what Bridenstine called a "gross misallocation" of funds for climate change research instead of weather forecasting. In further news, our rockets will now be coal powered, and gay people aren't allowed in space.
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Senate Confirms Climate Denier With No Scientific Credentials To Head NASA

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  • by bestweasel ( 773758 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @09:05AM (#56477157)

    Space? This Bridenstine guy will probably turn out to be a Flat Earther as well.

    • When I first heard that Trump would be choosing someone to head NASA, my first thought was "Well he'll definitely be a climate conspiracy theorist, I wonder if he'll be a flat earther?"

      I didn't expect him to be a homophobe though. Hopefully we won't make first contact with the Moclans while this guy is in charge...

  • by dontbgay ( 682790 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @09:08AM (#56477169)
    Come on, editors. Wtf? How is that relevant or helpful to the conversation? Are the people posting really that partisan? What are the new administrator's goals for the agency? Does he have a vision that includes manned space missions? Is he going to burn the agency to the ground? I can't tell. All I know is the poster liked Obama and doesn't like Trump which probably shouldn't be in the summary at all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      All I know is

      No, you alos know that the new head is an anti-science fool and a bigot. For some reason you're ignoring those. Even if you don't care about the bigotry, the anti science foolishness should matter to you for the head of NASA.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by elrous0 ( 869638 )

        Considering the sad state of NASA these days, does it really matter? If you gave me the choice between a asshole with no scientific credentials who might actually have the vision and leadership skills to be able to put men back into space and finally put men on Mars vs. one of the long series of boot-licking bureaucrats who've run the agency into the ground since the end of the Apollo era, I would choose the asshole any day.

      • He seems to have a pretty good career and educational background to actually manage big organizations - and that's really what is needed. Department heads are NOT like CEOs; they don't have to set the big agenda (Congress does that), nor do they need to be charismatic to raise funds. They need to make sure money is spent as it is supposed to and that things operate efficiently. Congress sets what is funded, what is important; Mr. Bridenstine's role will be to make sure the money is spent appropriately an
    • Offtopic? Seriously? It's in the summary ffs
    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @09:49AM (#56477377)

      The article answers some of that better than the ridiculous flame-throwing summary.

      Mr. Bridenstine, a former Navy pilot who is now in his third term in the House of Representatives, has become immersed in space issues. In 2016, he sponsored a bill called the American Space Renaissance Act, which proposed broad, ambitious goals for the nation’s space program, including directing NASA to devise a 20-year plan. Although it did not reach a vote, some of the ideas were incorporated into other legislation.

      Seems like the guy has some plans already in mind. Probably why he got the job.

      Mr. Bridenstine has since moderated his public views, saying he supports NASA research into the causes of extreme weather.

      During his confirmation hearing, he agreed that human activity “absolutely” contributed to climate change, but sparred with Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, over whether it was “a contributor” or the “primary cause.”

      So, in the face of new evidence about climate change and its causes, maybe he changed his mind. We should be welcoming news that people like this are coming around. And no gay people in space? Coal-powered rockets? Really?

      In his confirmation hearing, Mr. Bridenstine tried to make a distinction between views he espoused as a politician and how he would act as the manager of a large federal agency. “I want to make sure that NASA remains, as you said, apolitical,” Mr. Bridenstine said to Mr. Nelson.

      And more...

      Other than the confirmation hearing, Mr. Bridenstine has spent much of the last seven months keeping quiet. He largely stopped making any public statements and voting on bills to avoid conflicts of interest.

      He attended the first meeting of the National Space Council meeting, a panel revived by the Trump administration to coordinate space issues between various federal agencies, but did not speak or participate.

      And during Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address in January, he brought a guest: Bill Nye “the Science Guy.”

      Many people probably don't agree with his views, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be imposing those views on NASA. He's clearly stated otherwise in his confirmation hearings. I suppose there's the possibility he's just lying, but he's on public record, speaking to Congress, stating otherwise.

      • by Layzej ( 1976930 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @10:20AM (#56477505)

        During his confirmation hearing, he agreed that human activity “absolutely” contributed to climate change, but sparred with Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, over whether it was “a contributor” or the “primary cause.”

        Scientists believe that it is extremely likely that most of the observed increase in global average surface temperature over the last half century was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations [climatechange2013.org] and other anthropogenic forcings together. In fact, some studies put the human contribution higher than 150% [guim.co.uk]. That is, non-anthropogenic factors have had a net cooling effect. Human factors have caused all observed warming and also masked that cooling effect.

        Mr. Bridenstine is promoting an extremely fringe position that isn't supported by the evidence. I'm not sure why we should celebrate that.

      • I think we understand what this appointment is all about. Trump thinks he is the right kind of 'stuff'. Agrees with Trump on billionaire opinion, screw climate change - it will never bother the rich. And he does have some space goals, probably building the first cathedral in space to be dedicated by the President of the United States. What we do know about him is that he says what Trump wants to hear and does not let any little annoyances like science or facts get in the way of his dedication to serving Tru

      • by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @05:32PM (#56479735)
        His American Space Renaissance Act [spacerenaissanceact.com] is actually pretty awesome. Ideas like:

        "the United States should maintain a continuous human presence in low Earth orbit and, to the extent practical and consistent with national security priorities, should utilize commercial capabilities for operations in low Earth orbit."

        " to develop and publish standards and specifications necessary for on-orbit habitats to house NASA astronauts and science experiments in low Earth orbit. "

        "NASA continue its commercial partnerships for resupply and crew movement to the ISS and future low Earth orbit platforms. "

        "Expresses a sense of Congress that space debris is a growing threat to space access and that the United States does not currently have a plan for developing space debris remediation capabilities."

        "Space Transportation Infrastructure Matching Grants – Updates the Space Transportation Infrastructure Matching Grants program and funds it by setting aside one half of one percent of funding in the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. "

        "Recognizes that startup space companies are often limited in their ability to offer cash compensation to employees. For stock or option compensation, defers employee tax liability until liquidation."

        "space-based weather data and services can help mitigate gaps in critical weather requirements, increase architecture resilience, and augment legacy government weather systems."

        "Electromagnetic Spectrum – Expresses a sense of Congress that commercial launch providers require access to spectrum during launch. Requires NTIA and FCC to ensure access to frequencies and reduce the number of authorizations required per launch." - this was actually a issue on one of SpaceX's recent launches when they were denied broadcasting.

        I could go on, but I think everyone will get the point. For a thought experiment, let's say that he is able to turn his bill into NASA's operating policy. It's a very coherent policy that could push the US and all of mankind upwards. Weather monitoring is mentioned several times, as is working with foreign governments. Personally, I think the ASPA has amazing potential. None of Trump's other appointees have ANYTHING like this already outlined.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by elrous0 ( 869638 )

      Keep in mind that the /. staff is probably based in Silicon Valley, where it's just accepted dogma that all Republicans are Nazis, along with anyone else to the right of Karl Marx.

    • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @10:13AM (#56477469)

      Has CNN connected to dots to Russia yet?

    • by Entrope ( 68843 )

      The important thing is that he is a "climate denier", as the headline says. You've seen the evidence for the climate, so have I. Anyone who denies that the climate exists has no business being in charge of NASA!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by wulfmans ( 794904 )
      You must be new here. The editors of slashdot are the most biased people i have ever seen.
    • and judging by your +5 post it worked. Hell, got me here too...
    • Come on, editors. Wtf? How is that relevant or helpful to the conversation?

      The goal is to get more pageviews and responses. Seems to work.

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      He does not have a vision for space and wants most space activities shut down. What remaining earth observatory work is still going on will be the first to go. There will be no further missions to Mars and space telescopes will be scrapped.

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @09:24AM (#56477253) Homepage
    I agree that this guy is very suboptimal but the summary isn't very fair either especially the unnecessary snark that "In further news, our rockets will now be coal powered, and gay people aren't allowed in space." There's a legitimate criticism about his views on climate change and that should be expanded, especially as a major part of NASA's Earth observing work is precisely to understand the global environment and how it is changing. But the summary doesn't mention the primary criticism of Bridenstine. Prior administrators have almost always had a combination of adminsitrative and scientific skills. For example Griffin had a background in physics and engineering https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_D._Griffin [wikipedia.org], Lightfoot the current acting administrator is an engineer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_M._Lightfoot_Jr. [wikipedia.org], Bolden was himself an astronaut https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Bolden [wikipedia.org]. Etc. Putting in someone whose primary qualifications are political rather than scientific is very suboptimal; NASA has suffered enough the last few years due to congressional politics and politics dictating goals rather than science and engineering. The SLS https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Launch_System [wikipedia.org] is a really good example of this. Putting in a head of NASA whose qualifications are political with no real experience is very bad, and that would be bad even if he weren't a climate change denier (which does admittedly make it worse but at this point given who is in charge of the EPA should be about expected for this administration).
    • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @11:40AM (#56477907)

      Putting in someone whose primary qualifications are political rather than scientific is very suboptimal;

      I think having good political and management qualifications is far more important than having scientific qualifications when leading large teams of scientists.

      NASA has suffered enough the last few years due to congressional politics and politics dictating goals rather than science and engineering

      And a politician and manager is far more likely to be able get the scientists at NASA what they need than a scientist in a suit. That's because a politician and manager can listen to the people who work for them and communicate their needs to Congress. And he can do that without letting his own scientific biases and preferences influence his actions.

    • by Artagel ( 114272 )

      It is true that in the past administrators have been selected principally on their ability to oversee and execute the programs of NASA. That left leadership on NASA's portfolio principally in Congress because the political skills to advance NASA's mission were a secondary consideration at best. This time, the political ability to advance NASA's mission was the principal concern. Will the oversight and execution of NASA's programs be compromised when left to secondary political appointees or careerists? I th

    • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @01:06PM (#56478369) Journal

      "Putting in someone whose primary qualifications are political rather than scientific is very suboptimal;"

      That seems to be a logical assertion, but I'm not sure it's proved to be true.
      Putting former astronauts and scientists in charge HASN'T seemed to have caused NASA to flourish, has it? Maybe because these individuals *didn't* understand the *politics* necessary to succeed in the intensely political atmosphere of Washington DC?

      I mean, the NASA admin isn't designing space craft and piloting rockets: he or she is a BUREAUCRAT, begging other bureaucrats for money and other resources. Seems like a position where a politician might be more successful.

  • Everyone at NASA should walk out in protest. Everyone at the EPA should walk out in protest. Everyone at NOAA should walk out in protest. Everyone at....
    • Everyone at NASA should walk out in protest. Everyone at the EPA should walk out in protest. Everyone at NOAA should walk out in protest. Everyone at....

      Sounds like the hopes of lot of modern crypto-conservatives. That money freed up by the disbanded agencies could build a lot of wall.

    • No. We need to fight this. If people give up now, there will be much more damage done by the time President Trump is voted out.

  • by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @10:54AM (#56477663)
    The guy is an idiot. Everyone knows climates are real.
  • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @11:00AM (#56477685)

    Bridenstine ran a planetarium once, and peddled a debunked argument made by climate change skeptics, claiming that global temperatures "stopped rising 10 years ago." He said "the people of Oklahoma are ready to accept" an apology from then-President Barack Obama for what Bridenstine called a "gross misallocation" of funds for climate change research instead of weather forecasting. In further news, our rockets will now be coal powered, and gay people aren't allowed in space.

    Looks like Slashdot has gone from "News for Nerds" to yellowpress-style hit pieces.

  • by SensitiveMale ( 155605 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @11:39AM (#56477901)

    almost two decades. That's if you want to accept there was any at all in the 90's with the computer models. All of that is up to debate and moce and more evidence has been released to show the data was fudged. (To be generous)

    Second, NASA shouldn't be concerned in the least with "global warming" or "global cooling" or any other bullshit. NASA can't even put an astronaut in the space station. We have to pay the Russians for that. You think about that for a minute.

    Third, without being political, google what the three things the previous president charged Charles Bolden, the head of NASA, to do. I'll give you a hint' none of the three were about space.

    Charles Bolden, a retired United States Marines Corps major-general and former astronaut, said in an interview with al-Jazeera that Nasa was not only a space exploration agency but also an "Earth improvement agency".

    Mr Bolden said: "When I became the Nasa administrator, he [Mr Obama] charged me with three things.

    "One, he wanted me to help reinspire children to want to get into science and math; he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering."

    NASA should not be politcial.

    • by skam240 ( 789197 )

      Given that 2 and 3 on your list are basically the same goal (the Muslim world is the most estranged society from the West at this time), NASA has almost always accomplished these things in pursuing its scientific goals.

      I like how the Muslim part got highlighted though. Did that get you all fussy and triggered?

      • I wasn't triggered. I highlighted the Muslim parts because it is absolutely absurd that one of NASA's top three goals is "to make dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about themselves."

        It would be stupid for any government program to do that, but especially NASA. NASA? Imagine writing that "Obama wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Jehovah's Witnesses world and engage much more with dominantly Jehovah's Witnesses nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to scie

        • by skam240 ( 789197 )

          Top three goals?

          Please, tell me where that's being said. All the quote you've provided does is suggest that Obama wanted those things accomplished by NASA. It does nothing to establish their relative importance in NASA's overall mission.

          Furthermore, (and really, much more importantly) please look back and tell me how that reflects the reality of NASA's 8 years under Obama. How much money did NASA have earmarked for Muslim outreach? How much of a burden was this on their bureaucracy? Surely, if this was "one

          • Top three goals?

            Please, tell me where that's being said. All the quote you've provided does is suggest that Obama wanted those things accomplished by NASA. It does nothing to establish their relative importance in NASA's overall mission.

            Mr Bolden said: "When I became the Nasa administrator, he [Mr Obama] charged me with three things.

            That the top administrator saying that the President charged him three things. That's the leader of the country and the leader of the agency.

            Furthermore, (and really, much more importantly) please look back and tell me how that reflects the reality of NASA's 8 years under Obama.

            Again, NASA can't even put an astronaut in the space station. I'd say that reflects on the previous administration's record.

            Finally, you've failed to establish why reaching out to Muslims

            It's NASA. Not some social program. NASA shouldn't have any policy reaching out to any religious group. Especially, a top priority specifically

  • Some people with more left-leaning opinions seem to think of Flake as some kind of hero for his minor rebellion against Trump, but really, he is just as bad.

    Here he is, voting with Trump to appoint a clearly unqualified person. What for? Did he get some other commitment from McConnell that McConnell won't deliver on?

    There was a story in This American Life about how he was ultimately unable to get a bill on the Senate floor to do something about the DREAMers and/or DACA. He was screwed over by his own leader

  • It sounds idiotic. It is not a shorthand to "climate change denial," as it is a phrase that does not need shortening. Removing "change" changes the phrase's context entirely, and makes ambiguous the part the person being called a "climate denier" is taking issue with - which, if I am not mistaken, is about CLIMATE CHANGE. You can't deny a climate. You can - whether foolishly or otherwise- deny climate change. It's not hard to keep that one 4-letter word in there, people! Jesus Christ!
  • by Kiliani ( 816330 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @01:47PM (#56478579)

    What you want at the helm of NASA is someone who is enthusiastic about the agency, who knows how to schmooze the right people (especially Congress – and yes, you can take this as a pun, presently), who can advertise NASA, who respects the input from the scientific community (he said he would do that), who does not get too much in the way of the inner workings but recognises when NASA screws up and helps set the ship right (yes, NASA screws up more than you think).

    Being a scientist is most of the time not a good qualification in itself – those guys sit already one level down. Listening to and accepting advice from scientists (internal and external), on the other hand, is vital for that position. You also do not want a bean counter (if that's all they do), or someone who does not care.

    Even if I don't agree with Bridenstine, he is definitely enthusiastic about the job and really wanted it. NASA administrator is not the jumping board to become the next president (or senator). Bridenstine is fairly young. Wanting to lead a 20+ billion USD agency that is full of people smarter than you is a bit nuts. But, because of that, it's also the #1 federal agency in terms of employee satisfaction, and it's still "cool".

    NASA could have done a lot worse. This will be nothing like the EPA or CDC, for example. I would predict that NASA will mostly continue on its path (which is having to do too much with too little money to do it). Maybe it even helps that he comes from Congress. Congress holds the purse strings, and one of the worst problems of NASA, which needs to engage in long term projects, is the eternal budget uncertainty.

    I'd give him a chance. Just imagine it would not be him but Rick Perry ...

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