Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Watch beetle guru Anthony Cognato trying to deal with Fox News ignoramus Tucker Carlson:

It isn’t news that Fox News isn’t, um, news. Nor is it news that Fox can’t grasp the benefits of public investment in knowledge creation- perhaps because actual knowledge is anathema to their business model. But I digress.

I’m going to complain instead that Cognato missed out (or was edited out) on a major talking point to counter Fox’s bluster.  Fox pretends Cognato just sidled up to suckle at the stimulus teat while the getting was good. A university welfare queen, or something.  But that’s simply not trueNone of the NSF proposals funded under the stimulus were submitted as stimulus projects. Carlson showing up and acting like a royal asshole in these institutions misses the point. The scientists followed regular NSF channels, and to act as though the scientists themselves are slyly ripping off the taxpayers is, well, just being an asshole.

Cognato did a solid job in justifying the existence of Michigan’s entomology collections. But. Some preparation to nail down concise talking points would have better helped counter Carlson’s direct challenges.  Scientists aren’t trained to speak in talking points, and when direct challenges are answered with a more conversational tone the segment is easy for the post-editing team to manipulate to their narrative.

In particular:

  • Michigan’s sole positive economic sector is Agriculture. The insect collections comprise the primary information base about a large threat to productivity of said economic sector.
  • $200,000 is chump change- it’s way less than Sean Hannity’s salary- and a small price to pay for maintaining the integrity of the collections.

Interestingly, Fox never let the facts that the grant was being used to salary several people and to order equipment from American scientific supply companies (who also employ people) get in the way of their narrative.  The segment undercut their story, yet they pressed ahead anyway.

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In reading various web reactions to news that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contained nearly 1 million dollars for ant research at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, it seems there’s a lot of confusion about how something like ant behavior winds up getting a stimulus check.  Here’s an explanation.


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The Republican Party speaks:

GOP senators on Tuesday highlighted “pure waste” in the billions of stimulus funds spent this year, including money for fossil research in Argentina, puppet shows and to protect cruise ships from terrorist attacks…

What does the Republican Party consider wasteful? Science, apparently: (more…)

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Every year my part-time photography business does a little better than the year before.  A few new clients, a few new venues, a few more visitors to my web sites.  It’s not a meteoric rise by any measure, but considering the current economic situation I am counting my blessings.

Naturally, of course, when business is good I muse about expanding it.  What would it take to become a full-time professional photographer? (more…)

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Blagojevich and the Ants

I can’t help but feel gleeful at this morning’s news.   Back in January I had landed, I thought, a postdoctoral position at the Illinois Natural History Survey.  It was a dream job.  I’ve been itching for years to figure out what’s really going on with the evolutionary history of Camponotus, a hugely important ant genus with a godawful mess of a taxonomy.  The State of Illinois had finally provided the wherewithal, an independent postdoc to do research on a project of my choosing.  That would be Camponotus.

So forgive me if I seem petty when I explain that’s exactly when Mr. Blagojevich pulled the rug out from under the Survey, slashing their budget and eliminating several positions.

Suddenly, no job.  No Camponotus.  At that point we were already moving to Champaign-Urbana so I had to scramble to find another position.  Thanks, Blagojevich.  Perhaps next time I’ll have my bribe all packaged for you.  That’s how your system is supposed to work, no?

Sadly, the list of charges leveled against Mr. Blagojevich does not seem to include “Impeding the Phylogenetics of Camponotus“.  But, I’ll settle for the lesser crime of trying to sell Barack Obama’s old senate seat, if that’s what it takes to get rid of him.

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Dear Australia,

While you’re at it, why not just have a good old-fashioned book-burning?

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In line at the polling place…

…and the woman behind me was holding a tearful and very disappointed three year old girl.

“She thought we were going ‘boating’,” she explained.

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A True Fruit Fly - Tephritidae

Fruit flies are a family, Tephritidae, containing about 5,000 species of often strikingly colored insects.  As the name implies, these flies are frugivores.  Many, such as the mediterranean fruit fly, are agricultural pests.

Drosophila melanogaster, the insect that has been so important in genetic research, is not a true fruit fly.  Drosophila is a member of the Drosophilidae, the vinegar or pomace flies.  They are mostly fungivores, and their association with fruit is indirect: they eat the fungus that lives in rotting fruit.  Some pointy-headed geneticist started using the wrong common name for them a century ago, and legions of geneticists unfortunately followed suit. Now when someone says “fruit fly” we have no way of knowing what sort of insect it is without additional context.

I bring this up because the confusion between fruit flies and vinegar flies entered into U.S. presidential politics this week when Sarah Palin attacked Fruit Fly spending as wasteful:


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