By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Try not to laugh

From today’s New York Times story on $6.6 billion in federal earmarks that Congress is moving toward approving:

Senator [Ted] Stevens got $2 million for the University of Alaska to study “hibernation genomics.”

Martha A. Stewart, director of federal relations for the university, said scientists were studying the hibernation of Alaskan ground squirrels and black bears. If medics could induce a state of hibernation in humans, she said, they might be able to increase the survival chances of wounded troops being evacuated from the battlefield.

Wouldn’t it be better if she’d just said scientists want to study hibernation, and Stevens got the money?

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  1. Dot Lane

    The University of Alaska missed an excellent opportunity to combine the two goals. They should have also asked for money to teach Alaskan squirrels combat operations as a first line of defense against incursions by Russians like Boris Badenov, thus putting American troops out of harm’s way.

  2. Steve

    That phrase about survival of battlefield wounded seems to come straight from the proposal, and the earmark seems to come out of the DoD budget, so I guess that justifies the phrasing.But it reminds me of a story I’ve heard about the beginnings of radio astronomy. Astronomers had long suspected that celestial bodies were emitting radio waves, and in the early 60s they wanted to find out if this was really true. So they submitted a grant proposal to Congress to look for radio emitters in deep space. Congress said “no”.The astronomers went back to revise their proposal. What was the federal government interested in in the 60s? The Moon! So they proposed to search for radio emissions from the Moon(!), and they got their grant.Of course, they found no radio emissions from the moon, but they found all this other cool stuff, including the discovery of quasars in deep space.

  3. Neil

    Hibernation research is a worthy cause deserving of funding, and not just for squirrels. Human hibernation would reduce energy consumption and generally keep people out of trouble. Can’t drive your SUV or commit terrorism while sleeping. I’d do my part to help by volunteering for deep slumber from say December to mid-April.(I keep editing this to make the hibernation period longer.)

  4. Ryan

    I don’t agree with using earmarks to fund science, as there’s better ways to appropriate money through congress for such things.That said, let’s not go to far to knock this. With funding harder to get, they might be turning to earmarks, and there might be some merit in what she’s painting the study as.I’d rather focus on the bridges and to now-where, and how that money is better suited in repairing the 99,000 structually deficient bridges in this country, mush like the one that fell into the might Mississippi.

  5. LFNeilson

    And Martha A. Stewart probably used some of the grant money to decorate the hibernation dens and cook up some yummy bedtime treats for the critters.zzzzzzzzz

  6. Steve

    ryan: “I don’t agree with using earmarks to fund science“I agree. What I don’t understand (and Dan, help me out here) is why this required an earmark at all. Some Google results made it seem like this is a DoD program. I’ve been out of the DoD contracting biz since Reagan, but these things used to be contracted for with a Request For Proposal, and the contracts let as part of a competitive bidding process (even if the RFP and “competition” were geared so that there was a clearly predefined winner). No earmarks necessary, as long as it was a DoD-approved program.

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