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While we have all enjoyed the sport of tearing into Sarah Palin for making fun of what appeared to be research that benefits her pet issue, it turns out that the earmark in question was about the Olive Fruit Fly, Bactrocera oleae, not Drosophila sp. It was not about their use as a genetic laboratory, but about the fact that they are flies that, um, eat fruit.

This was particularly stupid of Richard Wolffe, because that detail about "Paris, France" should have set off loud alarm bells before he went on with such intensity. He should have at least realized something very specific was being cited, and looked into what it was.

More thoughts below...

As has been pretty well established, the Palin reference was to an earmark to study the Olive Fruit Fly, which is an imported pest harming the olive industry in Napa. The research is based at the USDA facility in Paris because the French have a wealth of experience with th elittle critters. The earmark was for $748,000, and promises good ROI. Now, that amount of money won't by itself fund childhood disability research, but, admit it, she chose it just as an example of a "wasteful" earmark because it sounds funny and will stick in the memory.

Also, it turns out, because it was singled out by Citizens Against Government Waste. No doubt she is familiar with their stuff, as is part of her base, and she was using a dog-whistle, perhaps thinking everyone knew about it. Both McCain and Palin have been dog-whistling a lot recently; McCain famously in the third debate.

Wolffe (a fellow-countryman whom I admire) used his unresearched assumption to go off on a particularly vicious attack against Palin (whom I detest) by accusing her of lacking basic knowledge about research into autism and related diseases, thus implicitly dragging her baby into it. I can write the right-wing blogs about it now.

Liberal media icon Wolffe was so intent on mocking Sarah Palin for her interest in autism that he delivered a vituperative attack without bothering to do something simple like look up the research and show that it was a classic special-interest easrmark that perfectly illustrated her case and how dare he accuse her of not knowing how autism research is done.

Except I spelled it correctly.

There are plenty of reasons to criticize Sarah Palin and John McCain over science. This is not one of them. We used this as an excuse to go after her because we like going after her. We used a preconception, that had a basis in fact but could be fatally damaging to the case. This is Dan Rather font kerning territory. I said "badly wrong" because of the danger of blowback.

Fortunately, nobody else seems to give a shit.

UPDATE: it was wrong (and uncharacteristic of me) to use the word hatred in the tip jar. For that I apologize. Contempt is about the strongest word I can use to describe my reaction to her.

And: thank you for pointing out that I did not spell it correctly. "easrmark" indeed.

Yes, I know Trig suffers from Down's not autism. Palin seems to be using the umbrella of childhood developmental disorder to link her personal experience to autism specifically, which is where I was coming from.

The parallel to Rather/kerninggate, while on a smaller scale, only occurred to me as I was writing, but I think it is apt.

Originally posted to UncleDavid on Sat Oct 25, 2008 at 04:48 PM PDT.

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