Alaska volcano blows smoke on Bobby Jindal

March 24, 2009

Joni Mitchell sang it, she’d seen “some hot, hot blazes come down to smoke and ash.”  Certainly Bobby Jindal’s criticism of President Barack Obama’s budget message to Congress was no love affair, but as the Toronto, Canada Globe and Mail noted, the eruption of Redoubt Volcano in Alaska made Bobby Jindal’s objection to volcano monitoring look particularly reckless.  Redoubt sent smoke and ash all over Jindal’s complaint.

This is the Globe and Mail story, really:

Alaska volcano blows smoke on Bobby Jindal

The eruption of Mount Redoubt deflates the Republican Party’s rising star

Globe and Mail Update

A month after Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal chided the Democrats for funding “something called volcano monitoring,” the eruption of a volcano in Alaska is spewing ash 15 kilometres into the air.

Alaska’s Mount Redoubt, which has erupted five times since Sunday, is likely among the sites to benefit from the U.S. stimulus package, with the money going toward monitoring volcanoes, repairing facilities and mapping.

In his official Republican response to President Barack Obama’s speech to the nation last month, Mr. Jindal called volcano monitoring an unnecessary frill in the government’s stimulus package.

“While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending and includes $300-million to buy new cars for the government, $8-billion for high speed rail projects, such as a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140-million for something called volcano monitoring,” Governor Jindal said. “Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.”

But judging by the events of the past couple of days, perhaps it’s prudent for the government to spend money monitoring volcanoes.

Mount Redoubt’s first eruption occurred at 10:38 p.m. Sunday and the fifth ended at 5 a.m. yesterday, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. The volcano, roughly 160 kilometres southwest of Anchorage, sent an ash plume more than 15 kilometres into the air as it erupted for the first time in nearly 20 years. Residents of Anchorage were spared from falling ash, but fine grey dust was falling yesterday morning on small communities north of the city.

The observatory was warned in late January that an eruption could occur. Increased activity prompted scientists to raise the alert level on Sunday. Flights in the vicinity of the volcano were cancelled because of the ash.

Asked in a conference call yesterday whether stimulus money is necessary for volcano monitoring, John Power, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, declined comment.

Governor Jindal’s office did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.

The issue could prove a wedge in two years, when Republicans are deciding on their nominee. Governor Jindal has been tabbed by some as a young academic from a diverse background who could be the party’s answer to Mr. Obama, while Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who failed in a vice-presidential bid last year, has refused to rule out a shot at the top of the 2012 ticket.

Governor Jindal’s attack on volcano monitoring was met with criticism from politicians, bloggers and some scientists. Democratic Senator Mark Begich of Alaska wrote in an open letter: “Volcano monitoring is a matter of life and death in Alaska. The science of volcano monitoring and the money needed to fund it is incredibly important in our state.”

The senator’s spokeswoman, Julie Hasquet, said Monday that the eruption of Mount Redoubt over the past few days and its potential to cause damage in the state illustrate that this is “very serious for Alaskans, and we don’t appreciate it when folks use it as a laugh line or a sound bite.”

With a report from Associated Press

Alaskas Redoubt  Volcano erupted in 1990 - National Geographic photo

Alaska's Redoubt Volcano erupted in 1990 - National Geographic photo

Tip of the old scrub brush to Sara Ann.

Bobby Jindal: Dumb about rocks

February 27, 2009

I couldn’t believe it either.

Remember all the flap about a flurry of earthquakes in the Yellowstone Caldera over the Christmas holidays?  Volcano monitoring is critical to safety in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Alaska — not to mention Hawaii’s special circumstances — and to all neighboring states or those within downwind striking distance of a volcanic event.

A volcanic field now in southern Idaho erupted a few millions of years ago, spreading ash that killed creatures as far away as Nebraska.  “Neighboring state” covers a lot of territory.

So, Bobby Jindal, in his response to the Obama budget proposal speech, said the U.S. should get out of the volcano monitoring business.  It was not clear whether there were no rocks in his head, but neither was there knowledge about rocks where it should be in his head.

Green Gabbro, a real geologist, couldn’t believe it either.


Ignoring for the sake of argument the value of the basic science that always results from the data collected during routine monitoring – ignoring the general function of increased spending as an economic stimulus to the nation’s earth scientists, instrument manufacturers, etc., – even ignoring all that, volcano monitoring is still a very sensible investment in national security. A $1.5 million investment in monitoring at Pinatubo (near a U.S. air force base) earned a greater than 300-fold return when the volcano erupted explosively in 1991: hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property (mostly airplanes) was saved, as were thousands of lives. That 30,000% figure comes before you attempt to put a value on human life.

But then, Sarah Palin is in one of those areas where a failure to monitor volcanoes might lead to huge disaster.  It’s an unusual way to knock out a political rival, and not certain, but were Sarah Palin to disappear into a volcanic cloud, Bobby Jindal’s path to the Republican nomination for president might be less cluttered.  He’s a Rhodes Scholar — surely he can’t be that stupid about volcanoes, so the evil alternative, that he hopes to get rid of Palin, is the only thing that makes sense, isn’t it?

Is there no one in the Republican Party who will stand up for science and reason?


Still not Bobby Jindal

February 25, 2009

Did you listen to the Republican response to President Obama’s speech last night?

Louisiana’s Gov. Bobby Jindal delivered the response — and “delivered” is a pretty good description of the style of the thing.  My wife and I had sarcastically predicted the Republicans would call for taxcuts as a cure for everything, from broken legs to global warming — and Jindal did just that.

Is Bobby Jindal running for president?  Then, just as he was not the guy the Republicans should have picked for vice president in 2008, he’s not the guy for 2012, or 2016, or any other time.  I was right the first time:  “Not Bobby Jindal:  The parable of the idiot candidate.”

It’s still not Bobby Jindal.  Nor was it, nor is it, Sarah Palin.  Will Republicans figure that out?

(Yeah, he’s a Rhodes Scholar.  He’s also a creationist.  Sometime between getting selected for Oxford and running for governor he appears to have volunteered for a lobotomy.  We don’t know yet the extent of the impairment to his judgment, but it probably isn’t limited to science, and even if it were, that’s enough to disqualify him.)

Louisiana creationists gear up campaign to deceive students

June 20, 2008

My earlier post urging readers to contact Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to urge him to veto the latest creationist eruption the Louisiana Lege gave him, produced an interesting comment. A fellow named Wayne provided links to a presentation by some guy named Perry Marshall, in which Marshall flails vainly against evolution theory.  The video is billed as one the Louisiana Coalition for Science “fears.”  Wayne wants to know, should we keep children from seeing it?

Marshall apparently isn’t even an engineer, but instead designs ads for internet placement — at least one step removed from the usual joke about engineers as creationists. Of course, that doesn’t help any of his arguments.

Wayne linked to three YouTube presentations, about half of the presentation Marshall made at an unidentified church (there are five segments total, I gather). What you see is bad PowerPoint slides, with audio. Marshall suggests that evolution couldn’t get from the American pronghorn antelope to the African giraffe, but in classic creationist form, he doesn’t address the unique signs of evolution we find in giraffes (neck, vagus nerve, for example) nor in pronghorns (bred for speed to beat the American cheetah, which is now extinct, and thereby hangs a great tale of sleuthing by evolution).

Marshall’s presentation is insulting. To me as a historian, it’s astounding how he can’t accurately list sequences of events well known to history. The science errors he makes are errors any 7th-grade student might make — but he’s passing them off as valid criticism of evolution theory.

Here’s the first YouTube presentation, and below the fold, my response to Wayne.

These presentations are an omen. They are sent to us as a warning for what the Discovery Institute will try to sneak into classrooms if Jindal signs that bill into law — heck, they’ll try anyway, but we don’t have to drill holes in our kids’ heads to make it easier for con men and snake oil salesmen to get their fingers in there.

My response below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

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