An inadequate reward for corruption at the expense of science

You may recall my earlier complaint about the corruption and waste and profligacy of the head of the Smithsonian, Lawrence Small. A non-scientist, he spent the last few years padding his own nest by drawing on the resources of the Smithsonian, and was basically a typical Republican appointee.

The good news: Small has resigned, hopefully in disgrace. The bad news: he wasn’t frog-marched out of his office and thrown in jail. Still, let’s hope that many more Friends of Republicans are thrown out on their asses soon.


  1. says

    Good riddance, hopefully someone decent will replace him (but given the Bush administration’s record with the sciences and with appointees, I’m doubtful).

    Incidentally, what do you make of this? It’s an article claiming a link between cold climate and skull (and therefore brain) size. I’m dubious, and I didn’t see any “research will be published in ____ journal”, so is this just a crackpot, or some insight into human evolution?

  2. says

    The guy who resigned was a “former executive at Citibank and mortgage financier Fannie Mae”. Couldn’t we have at least gotten someone who bred horses?

    Not to threadjack, but about the “Science Stories” advertisement:
    The presenter says of DuPont-clad firefighters:
    “..what about the guy whose sense of duty…”
    “..while these men – often volunteers – race in.”

    while the camera pans across both male and female firefighters.

    I fully understand the need to bow down to our petrochemical overlords. But couldn’t they respect our liberal sensibilities with some gender neutrality?

  3. NC Paul says

    While we’re threadjacking, the Pope’s off his meds again:

    “Hell “really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more,” he said.”

    So just to be clear:
    Heaven – Real
    Hell – Real
    Limbo – Just a hypothesis

    Hope that’s clarified things for y’all.

  4. Unstable Isotope says

    I just read that Small was actually appointed by Clinton, but he is a typical Republican-type appointee. He must have found favor with Bush to be able to keep his position.

  5. bernarda says

    Maybe a little bit OT, but here are some more statements by Darwin about “race”.

    As to Pope Benedickhead, Europeans are apostates.

    “The pope, who like his predecessor John Paul II has often called for a mention of God and Christianity in the European Constitution, said leaders could not exclude values that helped forge the “very soul” of the continent.

    “If on the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome the governments of the Union want to get closer to their citizens, how can they exclude an element as essential to the identity of Europe as Christianity, in which the vast majority of its people continue to identify,” he said.

    “It is no surprise that today’s Europe, while it purports to be a community of values, seems to increasingly contest the existence of absolute and universal values,” he said.

    “Does not this unique form of apostasy of itself, even before God, lead it (Europe) to doubt its very identity?””

    Up yours Pope.

  6. Jud says

    Post-Small acting director seems like a good chap: “Dr. Samper has specialized in the study of evolutionary ecology in the cloud forests in the Andes.” Based on some quick reading, it seems he may also have something to do with the Hall of Human Origins.

  7. says

    In tallying Small’s sins, don’t forget that he oversaw a deal in which Showtime was granted special rights to publicly-funded Smithsonian resources. From the cited NYT article:

    Although it receives about 70 percent of its $1 billion budget from taxpayer funds, the Smithsonian’s museums charge no admission fee and rely on receipts from its retail shops and other commercial ventures for income — along with public donations. Its business ventures division has come under major criticism, in part because of a recent deal with Showtime Networks, where the Smithsonian agreed to restrict access to its archives and scientists — which critics said violated its publicly supported status.

  8. John S says

    The anti-science crowd is alrady attacking the Smithsonian itself over the things Small has done. They have found an excuse to cut funding. Let’s hope the Democrats focus on the problems Small has created and keep the funding for the Smithsoniean

  9. says

    “The pope, who like his predecessor John Paul II has often called for a mention of God and Christianity in the European Constitution…”

    Because, as Saint Ronald Reagan said, Europe and America were founded as Christian Nations. Pay no attention to those Druids and Vikings and Romans and Jews and Moslems…

  10. Ned in Zurich says

    Must have been another director in 1998 or so, when I filed a copy of the following Usenet post.

    Ned in Zurich

    >>A letter from the Smithsonian Institute:
    >>The story behind this: Apparently, there is a nutball who digs things out of
    >>his backyard and sends his “discoveries” to the Smithsonian Institute,
    >>labeling them with scientific names and insisting they are actual
    >>archeological finds. The bizarre truth is this guy really exists and does
    >>this in his spare time! Anyway, what follows is a letter from the Smithsonian
    >>Institute in response to his submission of a recently discovered specimen.
    >>Paleoanthropology Division
    >>Smithsonian Institute
    >>207 Pennsylvania Avenue
    >>Washington, DC 20078
    >>Dear Sir:
    >>Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled “211-D, layer
    >>seven, next to the clothesline post. Hominid skull.” We have given this
    >>specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to inform you that we
    >>disagree with your theory that it represents “conclusive proof of the
    >>presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago.” Rather, it
    >>appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety
    >>one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be the “Malibu Barbie”.
    >>It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of
    >>this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar
    >>with your prior work in the field were loathe to come to contradiction with
    >>your findings.
    >>However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of the
    >>specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern origin:
    >>1.The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically
    >>fossilized bone.
    >>2.The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimeters,
    >>well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-hominids.
    >>3.The dentition pattern evident on the “skull” is more consistent with the
    >>common domesticated canine (dog) than it is with the “ravenous man-eating
    >>clams” you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time. This latter
    >>finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted
    >>in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather
    >>heavily against it.
    >>Without going into too much detail, let us say that:
    >>A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has chewed
    >>B. Clams don’t have teeth.
    >>It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your request to
    >>have the specimen carbon dated. This is partially due to the heavy load our
    >>lab must bear in its normal operation, and party due to carbon dating’s
    >>notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic record. To the best of our
    >>knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon dating
    >>is likely to produce wildly inaccurate results.
    >>Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National Science
    >>Foundation’s Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen
    >>the scientific name “Australopithecus spiff-arino.” Speaking personally, I,
    >>for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but
    >>was ultimately voted down because the species name you selected was
    >>hyphenated, and didn’t really sound like it might be Latin.
    >>However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen
    >>to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a hominid fossil, it is,
    >>nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of work you seem
    >>to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know that our Director has
    >>reserved a special shelf in his own office for the display of the specimens
    >>you have previously submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff
    >>speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site
    >>you have discovered in your back yard.
    >>We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation’s capital that you proposed in
    >>your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to pay for it.
    >>We are particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories
    >>surrounding the “trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous ions in a
    >>structure matrix” that makes the excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur
    >>you recently discovered take on the deceptive appearance of a 9-mm Sears
    >>Craftsman automotive crescent wrench.
    >>Yours in Science,
    >>Harvey Rowe
    >>Curator, Antiquities

  11. Dark Matter says

    From the article at

    The announcement of Mr. Small’s resignation comes four days after Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, persuaded the Senate to freeze a $17 million increase in the Smithsonian’s funding, singling out what he called “out-of-control spending.”

    Expect to see a serious shortfall when they do restore the funding- after a dog-and-pony show about “fiscal responsibility”….

    Result- The Smithsonian from now on will be more dependent than ever on money from corporate and private sources…sources that will now
    have *serious* strings attached…like cutting back on public
    education about evolution.

    The hollowing out of the Smithsonian is right on schedule… Smallie, ya did a heck of a job !