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The Coburn Report is Always Good For a Laugh

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Senator Tom Coburn slams the National Science Foundation again in his latest report, and reiterates his at least twice-quashed suggestion that all NSF funding for political science be eliminated. Some members of the poliscigentsia are worried. I haven’t read the report yet, but I find his entire string of such efforts funny: here’s what I wrote during his last attempt at this.

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  • croghan27

    Is this not the same Tom Coburn, resident of the famous ‘C’ street family that advised disgraced John, one of the 15 Most Corrupt Members of Congress Ensign on the handling of the exposure of his (champion of family value, that he is) affair with a staffer.

    Throw in Tom DeLay and they are all, all honourable men.

    • ema

      Yes, the same one who claimed he was Ensign’s Ob/Gyn.

  • p j

    The shrimp treadmill study money that my alma mater got has me scratching my head, too. Would love to see that grant application.

    • Warren Terra

      According to one substantive story Google finds me amid a spew of the right-wing Wurlitzer’s stories, it appears that the researchers were doing a study of shrimp suffering from bacterial infection and built the treadmill for use with their shrimp. The treadmill was used to exercise infected and uninfected shrimp, and various assays were done on them. The newspaper story links to the senior author’s faculty page if you want to read more.

      Now, the health of coastal shrimp populations may be of limited interest in Sen. Coburn’s Oklahoma, but we can imagine that representatives of states along the gulf coast might feel differently. It may have helped to attract Sen. Coburn’s baleful gaze that the senior researcher explicitly links increasing problems of infectious disease in coastal animals to climate change.

      What is especially clear is that the treadmill was built using $48 in spare parts. That’s right: the headlines being spun out of this treadmill story (a typical example, from the UPI, is “$500000 spent on shrimp treadmill study”) are wrong by four orders of magnitude. Even by the relevant standards, that’s a bit of an achievement.

      • Normy.Thomas.

        Well, that’s great report from a nobody source. Here’s ABCNews

        Perhaps you can find the importance of studying Farmville on FaceBook or the importance of jello wrestling in Anarctica.

        I can’t.

        The interesting part is those like Mr Terra rail at *any* criticism of NFS as if they are immune to scrutiny like any other spending.

        • Malaclypse

          Perhaps you can find the importance of studying Farmville on FaceBook or the importance of jello wrestling in Anarctica.

          Perhaps you can find someone who has proposed doing that, Normy.The.Dumb. Nah, easier to just make shit up.

          • Normy.Thomas.

            Nah, easier to just make shit up.

            From the ABCNews report:
            Even gelatin wrestling has been the subject of an agency project. In Antarctica, no less.

            You should read more and run your inbred mouth less.

            • Malaclypse

              Sadly, no, Normy.The.Very.Very.Dumb

              Quoting an incorrect report is not, actually, evidence, Normy.The.Very.Very.Dumb. Clever punchline, but not evidence.

            • MAJeff

              Yeah, not so much:

              http://mediamatters.org/iphone/research/201105270026

              NSF Grantees Were Not Conducting A Study Into Jell-O Wrestling; Employee Who Organized The Party Was Fired. A 2009 Westword News article reported:

              Jell-O wrestling recently became a firing offense — at least for one employee of Centennial-based Raytheon Polar Services Company, which holds the ten-year contract to staff the United States Antarctic Program.

              Last week, the unnamed man was dismissed after employees of the U.S. Inspector General’s office, conducting an audit of Antarctica’s McMurdo Station, discovered the aftermath of a Jell-O wrestling party. According to news reports, the employee defended himself, saying “No one was injured…no equipment was abused or damaged, no one complained to HR, there was no inappropriate behavior, clothing or nudity.”

              You should read more and run your inbred mouth less.

              MIght want to take that advice yourself.

              • Malaclypse

                Normy.The.Dumb has Gone Galt from reading comprehension.

              • DrDick

                You cannot go Galt from something you never had.

              • Malaclypse

                You cannot go Galt from something you never had.

                Of course you can. You think any Randroid is actually productive?

              • DrDick

                FTW!

              • Malaclypse

                Ever notice that this is pretty much always the point in the thread that, having made a complete ass of himself, and having been proved completely wrong, that Normy moves on to another thread, and hopes that nobody remembers how very, very, completely and totally wrong he was?

              • DrDick

                Indeed. the sad part is that he does not seem to have any self awareness, self-respect, or sense of shame and keeps coming back for more, again and again. I suspect he is a devotee of the Baron Sacher-Masoch.

              • Malaclypse

                I suspect he is a devotee of the Baron Sacher-Masoch.

                Nah, he’s just a Friend of Dorothy who won’t admit it, especially to himself.

              • MAJeff

                Nah, he’s just a Friend of Dorothy who won’t admit it, especially to himself.

                Oh, fuck no! We ain’t having him.

              • Malaclypse

                Oh, fuck no! We ain’t having him.

                I don’t think anyone is having Normy. That’s why he’s so angry. A Nice Guy ™ like him…

              • DrDick

                I don’t think anyone is having Normy.

                I hear that even his inflatable girl friend left him for the Goodyear blimp.

              • N.Thomas..

                Great entertainment, GayMAJeff!

                If quoting MediaMatters wasn’t funny enough, offering up Westword News of Denver, a free weekly alternative rag that does restaurant reviews and gay pride coverage as the definitive source was simply genius!!

                Yeah, what were we thinking, listening to a *real* news media source like ABCNews when we could follow a nothing-burger local rag with homo ads for hookups for our main news source?

                Who knew?

              • Malaclypse

                Repressed, self-hating troll is projecting again. Subtext once again text.

              • MAJeff

                Norm: what information do you have to indicate that those reports are wrong? Anything?

          • Bill Murray

            to be fair to Abby Normal Thomas, the Farmville one is sort of true, but from the abstract sounds pretty reasonable (and there is no mention of farmville)

            http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward.do?AwardNumber=0916019

            ABSTRACT

            Collaboration, when it works, optimizes the contributions of individuals, often resulting in better decisions, outcomes, and experiences than individuals working alone. Social network sites (SNSs) offer new opportunities for collaboration due to their social and technical affordances. SNS profiles enable the display of identity information, which can act as a social lubricant and help individuals initiate conversations and find common ground. Within SNSs, contact lists lower the transaction costs associated with interaction. Finally, SNSs enable access to a larger pool of individuals (and their wider and more diverse knowledge base) while also providing a context in which social capital processes serve as a mechanism for encouraging collaboration, advice-giving and information-sharing. This project will develop and test a model of SNS-enabled collaboration motivated by the following research questions: What forms of collaboration are enabled by SNSs? How do the features of SNSs affect these processes? Who uses these sites to collaborate and why?

            This study will examine SNS-facilitated collaborative instances using quantitative and qualitative data to provide insight into users motivations, perceptions, and conceptual frameworks. First, we will examine examples of ad-hoc collaboration among college undergraduates to explore how relationship initiation and collaboration occur, both in SNS and face-to-face contexts. Second, aggregate behavioral patterns on Facebook will be analyzed to discover and investigate modes of collaboration on the site.

            • Bill Murray

              I should add that increasing human cooperation is anathema to Republicans as they don’t want better outcomes for any individual but themself

              • N.Thomas..

                More likely, ‘researchers’ in academia needed a luxury car payment.

                None of this is critical science. Even if it has a redeeming quality in the long run, this is certainly not the time to spend money on the fringe.

                • Who decides, Normy?

                  What’s fringe to you could be potentially life saving to a cancer patient or some such sufferer.

                  Presumably these grants are not just proffered for shits and giggles.

        • Warren Terra

          That ABC news “report” is one of the sadder excuses for journalism I’ve ever heard of. Their entire consideration of the subject was:

          You’ve probably heard of shrimp on the barbie, but what about shrimp on a treadmill?
          The National Science Foundation has, and it spent $500,000 of taxpayer money researching it. It’s not entirely clear what this research hoped to establish.

          they manage to strongly imply everyone involved is flagrantly wasting taxpayer money without making the slightest effort to find out whether there might be some merit to the work. They could, for example, have gone to the lowest common denominator effort of glancing at the senior author’s faculty web page, as I did. Or, seeing as how they’re a paid professional journalist potentially affecting the public debate, they could have read the peer reviewed publication that came out of the work, maybe discussed it with knowledgeable people. The idea that you would think that shamfully content-free pitiful non-excuse for a news report was giving you the information to make a judgment is rather revealing about you.

          • MAJeff

            You’re expecting political reporters to be something more than stenographers for politicians? How dare you expect people reporting on scientific research be scientifically literate!

            • Davis

              That lazy “it’s not entirely clear” really pisses me off. And I thought ABC part of the Liberal Media.

              • Slocum

                The scientists doing this work would be overjoyed to explain the point to those assholes, that’s what makes it incredibly lazy and irresponsible.

              • elm

                That’s the best part of The story in the Star: the reporter talked to the scientist about what the project was about and took a number of (seemingly) deliberate swipes at her colleagues in the media, saying that the scientist is “happy” to answer questions about his research and “laughs” at the $500,000 treadmill idea. Nice to know at least one reporter still understands that calling the source might yield interesting information.

          • Davis X. Machina

            John Stossel, sounds like. He hangs his hat at ABC

            • Davis

              Of course, I forgot about that libertarian jerk at ABC, but I wish you hadn’t reminded me of his existence. Gimme a break!

          • N.Thomas..

            …the Farmville one is sort of true…

            Sorta true?

            It IS true. lemme ask you this:

            1) Debt crisis
            2) Democrats want to raise taxes
            3) Economy in the tank
            4) Social Security crisis looms

            Does any of this “reasearch” seem so important that it *MUST* be done now and mankind cannot wait for these results??

            • Malaclypse

              1) Debt crisis

              You know, the sort of crisis that has interest rates on government debt at historic lows. That sort of crisis.

              2) Democrats want to raise taxes

              Well, the imaginary Democrats in Normy.The.Dumb’s head may want that.

              3) Economy in the tank

              And unemployment down from Bush levels, while GDP is, slowly, rising after the Republicans fucked everything up.

              4) Social Security crisis looms

              No it doesn’t, Normy.The.Dumb.

              • N.Thomas..

                Shorter GayMalaclypse:

                “Why worry….be happy!”

              • Malaclypse

                GayMalaclypse

                Subtext remaining text, Normy.The.Dumb.

              • DrDick

                Watch yourself, Mal. I think Normy has the hots for you. I wouldn’t wish that on Rick Santorum.

        • elm

          You also have to love Norman’s claim that because the story was from a “nobody source” it must be unimportant. Did he read the story to determine if it was wrong or just assume that because it was from a site he hadn’t heard of it was unimportant?

          Maybe no one should tell him that thestar.com is the Toronto Star, the largest paper in Canada and, as I understand it, the closest thing to a Canadian “paper of record.”

          Of course, no Norman will complain that it’s some stupid foreign source so can’t be trusted.

          • Malaclypse

            Obviously, Canadians are anti-American socialists.

          • The Globe and Mail is probably the paper of record in Canada, but yes, the Star is extremely important as well and has won lots of journalism-type awards and so forth.

      • Joe

        The story has a joke quality, obviously, but shrimp is a serious business (isn’t money the name of the game for some people?) even w/o other things we can learn from such studies.

        http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15319541/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/scientists-put-shrimp-treadmill/

        • croghan27

          Did not Forest Gump become rich as a shrimper?

          • Bill Murray

            I see restaurants from his dad’s? shrimp company in many cities

  • patrick II

    Coburn doesn’t want the social sciences funded because it might give authenticity to things he disagrees with. It makes denial more difficult.

    • Normy.Thomas.

      I don’t think Coburn, and a lot of other people want government to be in the support-all-the-loser-academics at the expense of the taxpayers.

      • DocAmazing

        No, just in the support-all-the-loser-investment houses at the expense of taxpayers, with a side order of support-all-the-loser- defense contractors at the expense of taxpayers.

  • Charli,

    I clicked thru to your earlier piece and forgive me if this issue was raised at the time and beaten like a government mule, but it struck me:

    Do you think Coburn read Asimov’s Foundation series and took it as a warning, a la 1984?

    I’m wondering. The more and more outrageous the right’s war on science becomes, the more convinced I am this goes beyond grandstanding to embrace sheer terror at the concept that they, conservatives preying on the emotions of low-normals, could become obsolete.

    • DrDick

      I seriously doubt that any of them have read The Foundation, since their lips would get tired halfway through the first volume. Nonetheless, they do in fact hate science, especially social science, because it not only tells them that they are wrong, but that they are full of shit.

    • I think it’s more likely they’ve read The Marching Morons and took it as an instruction manual. À la 1984.

  • FWIW the adobe acrobat file lists the creator as SAA which are the initials of the Student Aid Alliance another Coburny flim flam operation

  • Anonymous

    This video is worth $500,000 alone, in joy it brought to the world.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4FvjdsGDJc&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Look at those little legs!

  • Sharon

    I blame William Proxmire

  • Why, exactly, is “geography” included in the list of soft sciences that don’t have real world applications?

    You see that w-word up there? Geography is….

    Oh, fuck it. I’m looking for sense from a Republican from Oklahoma. Blood from a stone.

    • N.Thomas..

      Oh, fuck it. I’m looking for sense from a Republican from Oklahoma. Blood from a stone.

      Shorter joe from Lowell: “I hate those people from Oklahoma”

      • …where “those people” is defined as “Republican office holders from Oklahoma.”

        Yep. As smart as Watts, and ethical as Coburn, and as honest and Inhofe.

        My favorite is the guy who told a black Assistant District Attorney that he has to watch his mouth around white people.

        • Normy.Thomas.

          …where “those people” is defined as “Republican office holders from Oklahoma.”

          That’s it….walk it back….can’t have your hate showing for all to see…..

          Walk it back….swallow hard

      • Strawman much, Normy?

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