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Something called ‘volcano monitoring’ 25 February 2009

Posted by admin in natural hazards, United States, volcano monitoring.
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It’s somewhat ironic that, at a time when Chile is waking up to the importance of volcano monitoring and, with the assistance of the United States Geological Survey, is developing a new and more effective volcanic hazard warning and response system, an American politician can stand up in Washington DC and say this:

Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history – with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending [including] … $140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring’. Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC.

The Volcanism Blog does not do politics, any more than it does sport, religion or cookery. In particular, as a blog born and bred in Great Britain, it does not do U.S. politics. It is appropriate to say here, however, that anyone capable of talking glibly about ‘something called “volcano monitoring”‘ as an example of ‘wasteful spending’ needs some education in the matter.

Perhaps a trip to Chile is in order for Mr Jindal.

UPDATE: A must-see response from Jessica Ball at Magma Cum Laude: ‘A letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal’.

ANOTHER UPDATE: If you do Facebook stuff you can join the Friends of Volcano Monitoring group (spotted by Kim at All of My Faults Are Stress-Related).

N.B. I’m getting some comments for this post that are inappropriate in content, or tone, or both. They come from both pro- and anti-Jindal camps. All comments are moderated on this blog, and that kind of thing – crudely partisan, offensive, irrelevant, ad hominem, wilfully obtuse, written in capitals – gets moderated out. So if you want to write anything like that, don’t bother, and if you have already and are wondering why your contribution hasn’t appeared, that’s why.

[I’m updating the lists below as new links come in. Links are listed in the order in which I became aware of them. The inclusion of links in the lists below does not necessarily imply any endorsement or recommendation, but my! some of them are brilliant.]

Geoblogosphere reactions:
‘Fact Checking the Republican Response: No, there’s not $140 million in the stim for volcano monitoring’ from The Questionable Authority.
‘”Something Called Volcano Monitoring”: Bobby Jindal Needs a Geology Lesson’ from Green Gabbro.
‘Are Republicans really suggesting this?’ from GeoTripper.
‘Volcano monitoring row erupts’ from Nature‘s The Great Beyond.
‘A letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal’ from Magma Cum Laude.
‘Volcano monitoring in the news’ from Eruptions.
‘Volcano monitoring good: Republican antiscientism getting tedious’ at Highly Allocthonous.
‘Volcano monitoring: money well spent’ from Andrew Alden’s Geology Blog.
‘I am not happy’ from Adventures in the World of Geology.
‘Bobby Jindal – Nihilist’ from The Dynamic Earth.
‘Something called volcano monitoring’ from Geology News.
‘Wasteful spending on volcano monitoring?’ from The GeoChristian.
‘The stimulating effect of monitoring volcanoes’ from Green Gabbro.
‘About volcanoes, hurricanes & Bobby Jindal’ from UnEarthedTees’ Geology News.
‘Volcano monitoring video montage’ from Geology News.
‘Volcano monitoring and the stimulus: cost effective and a clear public good’ from The Questionable Authority.
‘Geo-stimulus’ from Accidental Remediation.
‘Monitoring the stimulus’ from Geo Slice.

Other coverage:
‘Gov. Jindal follow-up: what is “volcano monitoring”?’ from Andrea Thompson at LiveScience.
‘Jindal versus the volcano’ from FiveThirtyEight.com.
‘Bobby Jindal’s stimulus lies’ from Nick Baumann at Mother Jones.
‘Bobby Jindal – science fail’ from Town Called Dobson.
‘Bobby Jindal and volcano monitoring: what was he talking about?’ by Jordan Lite at Scientific American.
‘Ask the experts: what’s the point of volcano monitoring?’ from Scientific American.
‘Geologist erupts at Jindal’s volcano question’ at Fox News.
‘Volcano monitoring’ from Marginal Revolution.
‘Bobby Jindal enrages volcano monitoring people by mocking volcano monitoring people’ from Wonkette.
‘Jindal comment on volcano monitoring causes some to erupt’ from Ken Rudin at NPR.
‘Jindal a volcano-watcher hater?’ at the Alaska Dispatch.
‘The volcano monitoring canard…’ from In One Ear… Out the Other.
‘Volcano monitoring’ from Cosmic Bubbles.
‘Fruit flies and volcanoes: why Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin should run in 2012’ from Splendid Elles.
‘Alaskans erupt over Jindal volcano gripe’ from the Anchorage Daily News.
‘Alaskans upset over Louisiana Governor Jindal’s volcano comments’ from KTVA.
‘Jindal continues a tradition’ from Pharyngula.
‘Republican party *still* shilling antiscience?’ from Bad Astronomy
‘First it was bear paternity tests, now it is volcano monitoring’ from Greg Laden.
‘Gov. Bobby Jindal’s volcano remark has some fuming’ from CNN.
‘Jindal vs. the volcanoes’ from the Washington Post.

The Volcanism Blog


1. Callan Bentley - 25 February 2009

I’ll bet Mr. Jindal wouldn’t have the same “wasteful” viewpoint towards something called hurricane monitoring….

2. matt - 25 February 2009

don’t worry — jindal and his party have absolutely no say in anything right now. and pretty much everyone thinks his rebuttal to obama was a joke.

3. Hawkeye - 25 February 2009

“don’t worry — jindal and his party have absolutely no say in anything right now”


With regard to the ‘volcano monitoring’ remark, I’m sure Jindal could have found many other better examples of wasteful spending in the stimulus bill.

4. Cap Bondo - 25 February 2009

“wasteful” is a subjective, and often mis-leading characterization of those money’s designated for the common good.
Mr. Jindal’s and his party’s lack of understanding of the importance of preemptive vs. reactive spending ( a la Katrina and New Orleans’ failed dike system) reveals inadequate understanding of cost vs. benefit. Volanoes around the world pose perhaps the most widespread danger to both human and economic interests, and only pre-emptive alerts and monitoring can mitigate potentionally catastrophic loss of life and property.

5. Michael E. Stora, Ph.D. - 26 February 2009

Being in Great Britain, you may be missing some of the context of the debate. The bill in question is not a regular budget bill but an ad hoc “stimulus bill” intended as a sudden Keynesian injection of cash into the economy.

My interpretation of the Governor’s remarks were that this request from the USGS does not “make sense” in a stimulus bill with a greatly abbreviated period of debate instead of being in the general budget which is currently being debated. In response to Cap Bondo, when such things are slipped in with no debate (called earmarks) there is no cost/benefit analysis possible.

Also in response to Cap Bondo, work on levies in the New Orleans area are in a constant state of environmental litigation. Decades ago, the building of a proper floodwall to protect lake Pontchartrain from storm surge from the sea was stopped by lawsuits from environmental organizations. You reap what you sow.

6. volcanism - 26 February 2009

I’m aware of what the bill is, I just didn’t want to get into the politics of it.

Governor Jindal didn’t say ‘volcano monitoring is important, but this isn’t how it should be funded’. He referred to it derisively as ‘something called volcano monitoring’ and classed it as ‘wasteful spending’. That was an irresponsible statement, and that’s what bothers me.

7. bob (maybe) - 27 February 2009

Interesting. I put the exact text of the quote into Google, and this was one of the first results. I’m kind of surprised to see a blog on volcanism from GB, but hey, good for you. This is going into my bookmark folder of blogs.

So to the issue at hand. He may have well intended to refer to it as something that should not be in the stimulus bill specifically, but without that inference it was a clear derision of the spending generally, as it was worded.

8. Brian - 27 February 2009

Bob has it right, and so, partly, does Michael E. Stora, PhD. If this USGS funding is needed, it should be budgeted in the normal way. The stimulus bill isn’t the place for it. That would have been a good point for Jindal to make, but he didn’t. He invited the audience to join him in mocking a vital public safety service. That was dumb, which is sad because Jindal is not a stupid man.

9. on-the-rocks - 28 February 2009

Agreeing with Brian, maybe Jindal’s statement was just a lousy-ass attempt at humor.

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