Saturday, March 7, 2009

Inhabitants of “Planet Springpatch” recognize Pluto as full-fledged planet

A part of me wants to take a few science-oriented geeks who likely spend too much time goofing off on the Internet and smack them about a bit.

What have they done to annoy me? They’re ragging on the Illinois General Assembly.

NOT THAT I have any problem with anyone who wants to dump on the collection of clowns, misfits and hacks who populate our state’s Legislature in the land called Springpatch. They usually deserve it.

But these scientific types don’t have enough sense to realize petty actions when they occur, so they’re trying to make an issue out of nothing.

Actually, they’re trying to make an issue out of Pluto, the distant planet that some people want to say really isn’t a planet and whom most people just associate as being Mickey Mouse’s dog.

It turns out that our very own Illinois Senate (the legislative chamber that gave us Barack Obama, where his intellect caused him to stand out like a sore thumb) has come up with another one of the hundreds of trivial resolutions that are meant to let some local legislator claim he took some action on behalf of a hometown interest – without actually doing something that might cause long-term harm for the people of Illinois.

IN THIS CASE, the resolution supports the notion that Pluto is a planet.

It says that Friday will be “Pluto Day” in Illinois – that is the date upon which some people are estimating that Pluto’s orbit around the sun will put it into a position where it aligns perfectly above the sky with Illinois.

That sounds like a lot of guessing and playing along with mathematical calculations that I’m not going to pretend I fully understand. But I’ll go along with the thought, just for kicks.

I expect most people in this state will pay as much attention on Friday to Pluto as they did back on Feb. 25, which was decreed by the same General Assembly to be “Eating Disorders Awareness Day” all across the “Land of Lincoln.”

BUT THE REAL reason that our Legislature feels the need to have such a resolution is that the astronomer who is credited with calling Pluto a planet back in 1930 was born in Streator, a downstate Illinois town that many of us pass without giving much thought whenever we go back and forth from Chicago to St. Louis.

I think that is a noble intent – and one that likely was worth the two seconds or so that most of our legislators actually spent in thought about this resolution.

Anyway, the geeks who like to spend their time at Discover magazine’s website get to read a piece of commentary that calls our Legislators “frakkin’ goofy.” And there is an extended commentary currently running as to who can best cheap shot our political people.

Apparently, it is now a severe crime in the scientific community to suggest that not everybody agrees with the decision a few years ago that officially reclassified Pluto as a “dwarf,” rather than as a full-fledged “planet.”

THE DISCOVER WEBSITE commentary refers to such an act as a potential “Constitutional crisis,” and ridicules the idea of passing a symbolic resolution meant to bolster an Illinoisan (even if he did leave the state fairly early in his life, and lived elsewhere from that point on) as “misplaced local pride.”

From where I sit, I can’t help but think there are worse things our Legislature could be doing with their time – particularly if they wind up having to pass that tax increase that probably is necessary (and which now-impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich claims has secretly been in the works for some time) to balance out our state’s financial mess otherwise known as a budget.

I’d almost rather have them spending some time on purely symbolic gestures that most lawmakers probably approved without giving it much thought.

Illinois, after all, is the state that has officially declared “square dancing” to be the Official Illinois Dance and “drummer silty clay loam” as the Official Illinois Soil – which local political observers usually quip means Illinois has its very own “official dirt.”

WE’RE EVEN THE state that once had its legislators consider an equally non-binding resolution calling for the impeachment of then-President George W. Bush. This “act” probably deserves to be taken as seriously as that one was – which was not very.

Seriously, if the worst thing that our state legislators do during the 2009 calendar year is approve a trivial resolution relating to Pluto that attempts to recognize the Illinois ties of a somewhat relevant scientist, then I would say it is a good year for them.

After having watched the General Assembly go through the process of impeaching Milorod and having to cope with questions over whether they improperly “vetted” Roland Burris when they had their chance at questioning him before he became a U.S. senator, I’d say those of us political observers who watch the Statehouse Scene are entitled to a tad bit of trivia such as a Pluto resolution.

-30-

EDITOR’S NOTES: The “commentary” that ticked me off (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/03/05/illinois-plutocrats/), along with (http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/96/SR/PDF/09600SR0046lv.pdf) the resolution itself.

For those of you who can’t remember a thing from high school astronomy class, some general (http://www.solarviews.com/eng/pluto.htm) background information on the physical entity known as Pluto.

From George W. Bush (http://provisoprobe.blogspot.com/2006/04/hc-m-yarbrough-introduces-impeachment.html) to eating disorders (http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/illinois-general-assembly-designates-february,719460.shtml), many topics get symbolic action from our state’s General Assembly.

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