Earmarks: Line by Line


Bob Somerby (of “Daily Howler” repute) always cracks me up. He rightly notes that, in fact, at a total cost of $7.7 billion, earmarks represent roughly 1/250th (0.25 percent) of the total spending comprised of the stimulus package, TARP and budget measures to complete the current fiscal year. “Can human beings reason at all?” Bob asks with dismay. “Under present circumstances, worrying about these minuscule ‘marks’ is like driving five miles back down the road because you may have spotted a quarter.”

Somerby also quite correctly points out that nobody has made the slightest attempt to show how much of that is actually “wasteful” as has been claimed by critics. Witness the completely useless exchange above between Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake.com and Amanda Carpenter of the Washington Times in this regard. Sure, they may sound silly when plucked out of context and held up for derisive ridicule (e.g., $650,000 for beaver management in North Carolina and Mississippi — one that Maureen Dowd found especially amusing for some reason, as did John McCain, who Twittered about it, asking “How does one manage a beaver?”). Another favourite “pet project” mocked by pundits like CNN’s Jack Cafferty was the $1.8 million earmark to research swine odor and manure management in Iowa. A viewer however was quick to explain why this wasn’t necessarily just “wasteful” pork:

“Here in Iowa, we’re sure in need of some swine odor and manure management. And I can tell you that for darn sure, since I live downwind to several hog farms. What you don’t understand, when you make fun of this, is that it’s a huge problem. Pigs are big business here. Their manure could be used for fertilizer and biofuels, instead of just polluting the air and the water. It is a smart investment that will pay off in clean air, clean water, cheap food, and jobs.”

As for the beaver management program (which involves trapping the critters and destroying their dams), state and federal wildlife officials claim to have saved nearly $5 million last year in potential flood damage to farms, timber lands, roadways and other infrastructure through the program Dowd and McCain were so gleefully mocking.

It’s surely a given there are some truly “wasteful” or thoroughly gratuitous programs amongst all of the earmarks, but if witless dickheads like McCain and others were interested in more than playing politics and clowning around, then why not go through them “line by line” in a more serious fashion and attempt to identify them on more legitimate grounds than the mere fact they may sound superficially “funny” to the clueless and uninformed?

When Banks Fail…

What exactly happens? 60 Minutes follows the FDIC as it moved in recently to take over a failed community bank in Chicago. Quite the efficient little operation… you know, for a government agency. Kind of puts lie to Ronald Reagan’s maxim that the scariest words in the English language are “Hello, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Interestingly, according to a recent poll, a small majority of Americans now favours the government nationalizing troubled banks.

Another Church Shooting

As you probably know if you’ve been watching the news today, a gunman walked to the pulpit of the First Baptist Church of Maryville in Illinois this morning and shot pastor Fred Winters to death.

Amazing that on right-wing blogs, as is usually the case with these sorts of gruesome shootings, the first thoughts seem to revolve around the issue of gun control and more specifically how if parishioners had been packing heat, this inexplicable murder could somehow have been prevented. Others utilize the incident to spew their kooky, anti-Obama vitriol:

When you ban guns, only the criminals are armed. When a country is disarmed, you can take it easily. Obama knows that, this is why he wants your guns. This illegal alien will not finish the year, America will wake up and remove that usurper from the predidency [sic]. If not, the whole world will be doomed.

Sigh. What a deeply sick society.

Update: Speaking of which, check out the hate mail that PZ Myers received from some irate reader in Indiana.

Pissy Little Wankers


Could right-wing bloggers really be any more cosmically stupid or pathetic than this, this, this and this?

Sadly, I expect the answer is “yes”… something that will doubtlessly be proven with wearisome regularity, every single day over the next four years.

International Women’s Day

The People & Power program looks at the present state of women’s equality, rights and the feminist agenda in light of International Women’s Day.

Update: Just out of curiosity, I thought I’d go see if any of the Bloggin’ Tories had noted that it was International Women’s Day. It will probably surprise no one that it’s gone completely unnoticed or remarked on by any of them. What else would one expect from a gang that routinely compares feminists to pigs (when not referring to them as “Nazis”), is opposed to pay-equity, and feels that promoting the Status of Women is “anti-male”?

Look Around You: Maths

From the BBC series first shown in 2002, satirizing educational films from the 70s and 80s in which different scientific subjects are discussed.