Too good to check. Federal grant for studying… duck genitals

posted at 3:31 pm on April 28, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

There’s no point in beating around the bush on this one, if you’ll pardon the pun. We should probably get right to the bottom of this fowl story.

WASHINGTON: Patricia Brennan received $384,949 from the U.S. government to study duck genitalia.

Last month, that made her a national joke. Now, it’s made her a little bit of a folk hero…

The federal grant that started this controversy is tiny, at least among the big numbers of the federal budget. The National Science Foundation, which gave her the grant in 2009, got $5.9 billion for all its research this year.

But these debates are about choices embedded in the federal budget. As in: If nobody else will provide funding to study the secrets of duck genitals, does the government have a moral obligation to do it?

The NSF says yes. A civilized culture needs people studying things that might never make anybody any money. One of Brennan’s collaborators, for instance, studies why bluebirds are blue. What he has found could change the way paint is made.

As amusing as it might be to talk about Dr. Brennan getting nearly half a million of your dollars to study the naughty bits of ducks, there’s more which can be learned from this story. (As an aside, I’m sure there are advances to be made in the cutting edge field of making paint, but … studying why bluebirds are blue?) Every time an election rolls around we hear politicians talking about the running joke of “waste, fraud and abuse” in the government. This is a joke, not because it’s not a very real problem, but rather because they all know that they’re not going to do anything about it. We hear them talking about “taking a fine tooth comb to the budget.”

Apparently there are no combs for sale in Washington these days.

But while $385K isn’t even a rounding error in the federal budget – nor even the entire NSF budget of nearly $6B for that matter – these types of examples are only a few among a field of thousands, if not tens of thousands. If there actually were somebody going through the budget line by line and bringing the details to the attention of the public, surely we could find a gold mine of potential savings which voters would gladly see trimmed.

Further, this plays into the entire idea of the sequester. The “draconian cuts” came to pass and the world didn’t grind to a halt. We have hundreds of agencies which have operated for as long as we can remember, getting the same budget and frequently the same increases year after year. They are often warned that they need to make sure they spend all the money they get, even if they don’t really need it, or they might have a lower budget the next year. But when some cuts went into place with no opportunity for appeal, they somehow found a way to tighten their belts and do pretty much the same work with fewer resources.

It’s amazing what you can do when necessity is what’s driving you. A few more cases of duck genital studies and we just might find the will to break out that comb and start digging.

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If the gumment wants to know about duck genetalia, ask any farmer that has ducks. For a more in-depth look, contact your local hatchery. They will tell you all about it for free. Of course, if you are one of those libruls that use the phrase “Lord Love a Duck!”, then you might have a more urgent need to know.

Old Country Boy on April 28, 2013 at 6:56 PM

Maybe the lootery,should of been spent on the study of Donkey brains!!

canopfor on April 28, 2013 at 7:25 PM

Too good to check. Federal grant for studying… duck genitals

Apparently, our government doesn’t know dick about ducks.

Dr. Charles G. Waugh on April 28, 2013 at 8:45 PM

It’s like I told someone else: I always wondered if ducks came in right-hand or left-hand thread.

BillH on April 28, 2013 at 10:26 PM

Well, at least we’ll finally find out if a duck’s a$$ really is watertight…

cornbred on April 28, 2013 at 10:27 PM

This government spending is for the birds.

RovesChins on April 29, 2013 at 2:52 AM

I watch grant $$ get wasted all the time.
I hear a local sheriff’s getting a brand new Doge Charger. WTF for?
I don’t begrudge the cops a new rig if they need it. But I seriously doubt out here they need that. Where most roads are dirt.
And the Fed is paying farmers to:
1. Not farm highly erodible land (CRP)
2. Farm highly erodible land by making some CRP payments look pale in comparison to the farm payments & crop insurance $$ they can get out of a failed crop.

Paying farmers to fail.
It’s one reason why I’m pi$$ed off all the time living out here in farm & ranch country.

Badger40 on April 29, 2013 at 8:30 AM

And the TSA plays duck duck goose with our genitals…

ChuckTX on April 29, 2013 at 1:30 PM