Oct 29, 2008

Palin vs. Fruit Flies: Fruit Flies Win

I don't think that Todd Palmer or Rob Pringle will mind me downloading their post verbatim. After all, their point about Palin's complete lack of scientific knowledge must be made. So here is their column featured on Huffington Post:

"Today, we are blogging from Durham, North Carolina, where we are trying to do our humble bit to help elect Barack Obama. On Friday, Sarah Palin gave us yet another reason to feel good about what we're doing here.

We are far from the first people to comment on this subject -- even within the Huffington Post -- so we'll keep it brief. But Palin's mockery of "fruit fly research" during her October 24th speech on special-needs children was so misconceived, so offensive, so aggressively stupid, and so dangerous that we felt we had to comment.

Here's the excerpt from the speech:

"Where does a lot of that earmark money end up, anyway? [...] You've heard about, um, these -- some of these pet projects they really don't make a whole lot of sense, and sometimes these dollars they go to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not!"

It's hard to know where to begin deconstructing this statement. This was a speech on autism, and Palin's critics have pounced on the fact that a recent study of Drosophila fruit flies showed that a protein called neurexin is essential for proper neurological function -- a discovery with clear implications for autism research.

Awkward! But this critique merely scrapes icing off the cake.

Fruit flies are more than just the occasional vehicles for research relevant to human disabilities. They are literally the foundation of modern genetics, the original model organism that has enabled us to discover so much of what we know about heredity, genome structure, congenital disorders, and (yes) evolution. So for Palin to state that "fruit fly research" has "little or nothing to do with the public good" is not just wrong -- it's mind-boggling.

What else does this blunder say about Palin and her candidacy? Many people have used it as just another opportunity to call her a dummy, since anyone who has stayed awake through even a portion of a high-school-level biology class knows what fruit flies are good for. But leave that aside for a second. Watch the clip. Listen to the tone of her voice as she sneers the words "fruit fly research." Check out the disdain and incredulity on her face. How would science, basic or applied, fare under President Palin?

We have other questions. Who wrote this speech? Was he or she as ignorant as Palin about the central role that fruit flies have played in the last century of biomedical research? Or was this a calculated slight to science and scientists -- a coded way of saying, "We don't care what you know or what you think"? We find it odd that, of all the examples of dubious expenditures of public funds, the speechwriters alighted on this one.

Whatever the explanation, it scares us. Everyone who has suffered, either personally or indirectly, from an inherited illness, and anyone whose life has been lengthened or enriched by modern medicine, should channel Palin's flip comment when they stand in the voting booth on November 4th."

Oct 22, 2008

Clean Campaigning from the Obama Camp

I live in Virginia, a battleground state. Tonight I received a sleazy robocall from a canned Rudolph Guiliani tape. You remember him. He's the guy whose son would not endorse him for president because of Guiliani's ugly divorce battle with his ex-wife and blatant in-your-face affair with Judith Nathan. At the same time that the Guiliani tape was wrongly accusing Obama of being soft on crime, I received the following classy e-mail message from Joe Biden, Obama's VP candidate:

Next Wednesday, October 29th, is a perfect night for supporters like you to host a party in your home.

Barack will appear on TV at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for 30 minutes. He'll share a positive message with Americans and discuss his plans for healthcare reform, economic recovery, and a responsible end to the war in Iraq.

Meanwhile, John McCain will continue his negative attacks, inundating swing voters with sleazy "robocalls" -- automated phone calls spreading lies about Barack.

And we need you to help fight back by reaching out to fellow supporters one-on-one and sharing the truth about Barack and his message of change.

Host a Last Call for Change house party next Wednesday. Invite everyone you know to watch Barack's 30-minute presentation and make important phone calls to voters in key battleground states.

Don't miss out on this opportunity to gather with friends and neighbors and make a big difference in this election. Host a Last Call for Change house party on Wednesday, October 29th.

I'd like to tell you we don't have to worry about automated "hate calls," as McCain once called them.

They don't hurt Barack or me. But they hurt Americans by distracting from the issues that matter. And the polls have been narrowing.

That's why it's so important for folks like you to bring together your friends, family, and neighbors to watch Barack and reach out to voters.

You can help supporters find their polling location or simply talk to voters who need to hear the truth about Barack. Just one phone call from you is enough to counteract dozens of these dishonest "robocalls."

Take the lead in your community now and sign up to host a Last Call for Change house party. We'll give you all the guidance you need:


It's up to us to show that this grassroots movement will do what it takes to change politics in America.

Thanks for everything you're doing,


Oct 17, 2008

Oct 13, 2008

Paint Like Jackson Pollock

Want to have some fun and paint like Jackson Pollock? Click here and let your mouse run wild.

As you can see, easier said than done. I am no Pollock.