palin’s disjoinment from reality, in the valley, pint sized intro to science

The Wonk Room wants to give credit Palin credit for being sincere in caring about special needs children. Maybe she is, but she opposes raising funds for them. So maybe she wants them to have special care, but has no practical ideas about how to provide that care ( McCain has been a consistent opponent of funding for special needs care), Analyzing Palin’s Special Needs Policy Address

We’ve got a three trillion dollar budget, and Congress spends some 18 billion dollars a year on earmarks for political pet projects. That’s more than the shortfall to fully fund the IDEA. And where does a lot of that earmark money end up? It goes to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good — things like fruit fly research in Paris, France, or a public policy center named for the guy who got the earmark. In our administration, we’re going to reform and refocus.

The problem here is ignorance. Not being a know it all myself I’m generally pretty tolerant of that phenomenon. Palin’s is a special case – she thinks she’s qualified to run the United States of America for one. Maybe she tweaked that speech, but it was probably written by and vetted by McCain campaign staffers. That makes it malicious ignorance, not to mention that its contrary to McCain’s actual record on the subject. Fruit flies are not worhtless – “About 75% of known human disease genes have a recognizable match in the genetic code of fruit flies”. Its called basic research, which has very practical real world benefits in the long term for diseases like cancer and diabetes. Scientists have studied the worthless starfish and the worthless lizard’s tail. Why. Because those creatures can regenerate appendages, an ability a soldier maimed in Iraq might find useful. Scientists have studied the feet of the worthless gecko to try and apply that lizards ability to adhere to surfaces to industrial adhesives. Maybe even adhesive past that can be applied to wounds at factories and on battlefields. Sometimes basic research like those of fruit flies and lizards doesn’t pay off for years. That’s one of the reasons its called basic research. Most of the federal spending on science goes to weapons development and domestic security, not medical research – the graph at the link doesn’t take into account the recent housing and financial crisis – while both Obama and McCain promise to fund scientific research, real world conditions may prevent that from happening. Maybe someday science will even explain the total disconnect between what Palin says and reality .

in the valley

Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) photo of Migrant Mother, Florence Owens Thompson. Thompson had seven children and this was taken during the Depression when she had a seasonal job picking peas in California. Some people think Lange was one of the best, if not the best photojournalists in history.

Pint-Size Scientists

Q: Are preschoolers ready for science? Isn’t that a bit early?
A: Here in America, we generally don’t go near science until about the fourth grade. That’s really too late. The child-development experts we’ve been working with have stressed the importance of trying to get to a child before the age of seven.

Q: What will the show teach them?
A: They’re not going to come away from Sid the Science Kid having memorized scientific rules and facts. The idea is to stimulate kids into thinking like scientists. The show is really about teaching kids to explore.

Part of an interview with Brian Henson who is one of the creators of Sid the Science Kid on PBS. Brian’s dad invented The Muppets.