Palin-esque earmarks you can love

By now, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's hypocritical position on budget "earmarks" is a part of the American political landscape. The former earmark champion is now the ostensible earmark slayer. Whatever. Unfortunately, a lot of science is funded through earmarks, so we should be careful what we wish for when it comes to reforming government. For example, Politico's Ben Smith has produced a list of scientific research earmarks that Palin recently requested, including $1 million for rockfish research along with:

⢠$400,000: Alaska Invasive Species Program: Continues to comprehensively prevent, identify, and respond to the threat of invasive species on the Alaska environment.

⢠$494,900: Assessment of Recreational Halibut Harvest in Alaska: This is an ongoing effort to collect data on the recreational halibut fishery that is conducted by federal agencies though relying on the state for data.

⢠$2 million: Bering Sea Crab Research and Management: Researches Bering Sea crab productivity and sustainability as necessary to restore crab stocks.

⢠$3.2 million: Seal and Steller Sea Lion Biological Research: Funds monitoring of ice seal populations in Native villages, research on the species delineation and genetics of harbor seals to understand the declines in population and provide for population restoration, and continues research into Steller Sea Lion population decline.

As someone who has written and edited reports for the North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium, and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, I can tell you these projects aren't exactly candidates for "golden fleece" awards. Invasive species are a serious problem everywhere; some species of rockfish on the west coast are in bad shape; the importance of the Alaska halibut fishery is anything but inconsequential; crab fisheries could use better management research; and despite years of research into the mystery of declining populations of Steller sea lions on the Aleutian Islands, it's hard to argue with another $3 million dollars worth of science on the subject.

I have no objection to drawing attention to Palin's flip flops. Smith is no doubt correct when he writes that the rockfish research is "one of several requests for federal help studying marine wildlife, which, coming from another candidate, might have drawn McCain's mockery." And I will admit that my favorite line on that subject so far comes from Katha Pollit, writing in The Nation: "If there were an Olympics for hypocrisy, the Republican Party would have more gold medals than Michael Phelps."

But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Scientists can't complain about inadequate funding for ecological research and criticize those who would help secure better funding without sharing the hypocrite's label.


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Alaska's politicians have actually been quite science-friendly. Say what you will about Ted Stevens, but he brought in millions of dollars for NOAA and pretty much single-handedly saved the Alaska fishery system in the 80s. We've also been lucky enough to avoid the whole Creationism mess.

Just offhand, have you seen any accounting of the earmarks that McCain has grabbed for Arizonia over the past 26 years?

I'd appreciate seeing dollarwise just how hypocritical he's been in this catagory.

Someone ought to have told her; the polar bears and wolves are native. Its pit-bulls that're invasive.

Seriously, don't lets get confused between earmarking and porkbarreling.

Drill, Drill, Drill

I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. And so it seems are many others

I am having Sarah Palin nightmares, Eve Ensler

Drill Drill Drill. I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.