Commentary From the Mile High City

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Joshua Sharf

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February 17, 2009

"This Pork Ain't Kosher"

Fantastic coverage of the anti-Pork rally at the Capitol this afternoon:

Michael Sandoval has pictures and video.

The People's Press Collective has a couple of posts.

And El Marco photoblogged the event as well.

Join us this evening on the Blog Talk Radio show as Michael, Randy, and I chew over the pork.

September 19, 2006

DeGette on Earmarks

As noted last week, my Congresscreature, Diana DeGette, voted against earmark reform in the House. Despite her opposition, the resolution passed, so with a couple of exceptions, anonymous earmarks are dead in the House.

I called her DC office to ask why, and one of her aides, Mr. Andrew Ginsberg, called back today. I'm happy to report that he was courteous, helpful, and responsive. What he had to say, I was a lot less happy with.

When I ask why she had voted against the rule change, he gave two arguments. First, it didn't do enough, like H.Res.659 and HR4682, both of which she supported. But both of those bills are huge, omnibus bills, seeking to address all sorts of rules problems, real and imagined. Sinking legislation you don't like by adding parts to add opponents is one of the oldest tricks in the parliamentary book. When the Republicans, wanted to pass reforms in 1995 per the "Contract With America," they passed each rule change on a separate vote, getting different majorities for each measure.

Voting against a measure you support because you can't get fifteen other measures is either not believable or petulent.

The other reason was that not all earmarks would be included. For instance, only bills reported out of committee fall under the new rules, and only tax earmarks which apply to one person would apply. But almost all spending legislation originates in committee, certainly all appropriations bills do. Most legislation that tries to originate on the House floor gets referred to committee, since the chairmen wouldn't have it any other way. And in any case, the author of the bill, or of the floor-offered amendment (another exception), knows what's in his bill or amendment, and who proposed it, so there's an address to go to there. Tax earmarks are another story, but an earmark for a large corporation - an example offered by Mr. Ginsberg - would almost certainly benefit or shareholders in many states. An individual's tax earmark is exactly the kind of thing most likely to be proposed by a representative who would be embarassed by the revelation.

We'll see if Mrs. DeGette lets the best become the enemy of the good when it's stem cell research that's up for debate.

As for specific earmarks, it turns out that Cong. DeGette is responsible for at least $600,000 in anonymous earmarks coming back to Denver. These include:

$200,000 for Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, for a naturally occurring retirement communities demonstration project.

I have no idea what this means. "Naturally occurring retirement communities." What, do they put a bunch of 60-year-olds in caves? They need $200,000 for blasting? Actually, it seems to mean what happens when all the kids at Wisteria Lane grow up and move out, and the families don't want to leave. For some reason, Jewish Family Services seems to be a leader in this nationally.

$150,000 to the City of Denver for housing assistance, mentoring, and other services for homeless families and seniors
Hospice of Metro Denver, for the Life Quality Institute
$150,000 to the Denver Rescue Mission for transitional housing for the homeless

Look, all of this is worthy stuff, but it's $600,000. If every man, woman, and child in the city of Denver gave a dollar, the Federal government wouldn't need to be involved in this at all. I don't want to revisit Referendum C, but why is it any better to have these guys hiring lobbyists to beg for them that to run ads and make their case to the people whose support they profess to have?

When asked why these requests were made anonymously, Mr. Ginsberg replied that, well, that's how earmark requests are made, and that there's no process for attaching a Rep's name to an earmark. Well, there is now. And before, these requests could always be offered as amendments.

So here's a question for you. If Mrs. DeGette ends up in the majority, will she vote to roll back this rule change before or after she proposes her still-unpassable omnibus reform bill? And will either of the papers report on it?

August 21, 2006

Midwestern Approach to Finance?

Supposedly a conservative approach to finance at a national level.

Has she ever seen what the national debt was, as a percent of GDP, at the end of WWII? My problem with Iraq isn't that we're doing too much, it's that we're probably not doing enough. In any event, she could probably fund the whole war effort from this list.

UPDATE: Link fixed.

June 19, 2006

Colorado Pork Pork

Which has the same cadence as, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

It turns out that, over the last 7 years, over $1.2 million of federal money has been spent on something called the Livestock Marketing Information Center, located in a western subrurb of Denver.

The LMIC is a unique cooperative effort between state university extension specialists, USDA economists, industry cooperators and Center staff. Through cooperative efforts and programs, duplication of effort is greatly reduced while enhancing the overall quality and quantity of livestock market information for producers and other decision makers.

The fact that this information is repeated on at least three separate government websites may be taken as either confirmation or refutation of its claims, I suppose. My guess is that if the information's that valuable for producers, they could probably be induced to pay for it. In the meantime, my tax dollars notwithstanding, not all the information collected is public.

That's almost as much as was budgeted this year alone for "Wood Debris Bioenergy Project (Legacy Management)." I thought I had one of those in my house....

November 18, 2005

Murtha: Porkbusters Target?

Yes, I know this is a cheap shot, but as long as we're playing offense here, maybe someone should ask Murtha about this US News article from May, about the NDIC. Seems as though Murtha was learning a few lessons from another "conservative" Democrat:

Pork? In the beginning, the Johnstown center did have some friends in the White House. With the blessing of President George Herbert Walker Bush, then drug czar William Bennett proposed the creation of the NDIC in 1990. Its mission: to collect and coordinate intelligence from often-feuding law enforcement agencies in order to provide a strategic look at the war on drugs. But the Drug Enforcement Administration, worried that its pre-eminent role in the drug war was slipping away, openly fought the idea. So did many on Capitol Hill, arguing that the new center would duplicate the efforts of existing intelligence centers, notably the El Paso Intelligence Center, operated by the DEA. With little support in the law enforcement community, the NDIC looked all but dead. Enter Congressman John Murtha. The Pennsylvania Democrat, who chaired the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Defense, tucked the enabling legislation for the center into a Pentagon authorization bill, with the caveat that it would be placed in his district.

The center was troubled from the start. Murtha's new drug agency was funded by the Pentagon, but the Department of Justice was authorized to run it--an arrangement bound to cause problems. "All of us wanted the NDIC," says John Carnevale, a former official with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, as the drug czar's office is known. "But none of us wanted it in Johnstown. We viewed it as a jobs program that Mr. Murtha wanted [for his district]."

Murtha bristles at implications that the Johnstown center is a boondoggle. "They say anything we do is pork barrel," he fumes. The congressman argues that the federal government should spread its facilities around the country, citing the security risk of a centralized government and cheaper operating costs elsewhere. But "obviously," he says, "I wanted it in my district. I make no apologies for that."

Headquartered in a renovated department store downtown, the center has brought nearly 400 federal jobs to Johnstown, a struggling former steel-mill town. Law enforcement agencies, ordered to send employees to the new center, had trouble finding skilled analysts or executives who would agree to live in Johnstown. Even the bosses didn't want to go. The first director, former FBI official Doug Ball, traveled back and forth from his home near Washington. His deputy, former DEA agent Jim Milford, did the same and made no bones about it. "I've never come to terms," Milford says, "with the justification for the NDIC."

I wonder if those "cheaper operating costs" include all the gas and rubber being burned in I-70 and the Pennsy Turnpike. I used to work at NDIC for a government contractor, and I would drive up and back each week, spending three, sometimes four nights at the lovely downtown Johnstown Holiday Inn, all expenses paid by you. It was the Monkey's Paw version of, "I'd like a job with travel."

To be honest, we all thought it was part of a good fight, but I didn't see anything particularly urgent going on there, and I certainly didn't see any former steelworkers holding down analyst positions. Maybe we should take the money spent at NDIC, and spend it on winning the war.

Then again, maybe that's what Murtha's worried about.


Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud