For the Love of Fruit Flies
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" What are those pesky insects hovering over the bowl of ripe peaches? Out, out, damn fruit flies! Stupid little insects! A blot on the ecosystem!
We at "The Gods Are Bored" will grant you that the U.S. government has spent some money on some silly things, just to keep the local legislators on good terms with their voters. Why, when I was a mere stripling, the U.S. Department of the Interior paid me minimum wage to clear brush and paint fences at Harper's Ferry National Park, under a program called Youth Conservation Corps, or YCC. (Our government, like most, loves acronyms.)
Ronald Reagan took an axe to the YCC long ago. And I hope you don't mind my saying this, but Harper's Ferry is a weedy mess these days. Fences haven't been painted in ... decades.
YCC is one of those examples of evil socialist pork that the defeated candidate for president railed against. But since the YCC was long ago squelched, sending its mostly urban minority workforce back to the kitchens of KFC, Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin had to draw upon more recent examples of pork barrel spending to bolster their free enterprise platform.
McCain railed against a federally-funded project to study grizzly bear DNA in Montana. That project has ended. It cost $5 million. (Don't know how long it takes the military to spend $5 million in Iraq, but who's counting?)
The results of the grizzly bear DNA study prove that there are almost four times the number of bears in the targeted area than scientists thought were there.
The study was conducted in order to see if that region could be opened to oil and natural gas drilling without decimating the grizzly population. So we spent $5 million to allow the oil barons a green light to dig for Texas tea in a previously off-limits part of Montana. They'll shove fistfuls of free enterprise largesse into their pockets, and the grizzlies will rock on. This is kind of like spending $1.00 on a lottery ticket and winning big.
But the more egregious example was Mrs. Palin's attack on the noble fruit fly, the species from which we've learned the lion's share of what we know about DNA and what can go wrong with it.
To my mind, belittling fruit fly research ranks right up there with not knowing that Africa is a continent. Can any student -- even those home-schooled in Mormon compounds -- get through school without being introduced to red-eyed fruit flies? Heck, your well-funded public high school is gonna be doing simple experiments with the critters right in the classroom.
We owe huge debts to the humble fruit fly when it comes to research in genetics, pesticides, plant biology, and hereditary illnesses. And it's hard to work up a lather of sympathy for something so short-lived as a fruit fly, even for me. Were we going to breed mutant puppies to learn about DNA? I think not.
Everyone has a different reason for being happy (or sad) about the outcome of this presidential election. As for me, I'm happy as hell that we've elected a leadership that won't sneer at science.
Nevertheless, I do advocate a line item veto -- at least make the Congressperson or Senator explain exactly why they need the new bridge, who's gonna use it, and what long-term benefits it brings to our nation. Under this scrutiny, fruit fly research in France and grizzly research in Montana will pass the muster with flying colors.
Flying colors ... flying ... flying ... oh, for the love of those flying fruit flies! Sign off, Anne.