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I regularly receive press releases from one of the two major political parties lambasting the other, and I generally don’t pay them much mind. But the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) sent out a release on August 4 that contained some juicy tidbits about the performance of the current Democratic Congress.
For example, it pointed to the Democrats’ appointment of Congressman Alan Mollohan to chair the subcommittee that oversees the FBI budget. That’s an interesting choice given that Mollohan is currently under FBI investigation for seeking earmarks that benefited his friends and supporters. And how about the inspired decision to appoint “Dollar Bill” Jefferson to a seat on the Homeland Security Committee? Maybe that should have waited until Jefferson finds a better excuse for keeping $90,000 in his freezer, as discovered during an FBI raid on his home.
The press release also cited an outburst of Democratic porkbarrel spending. The legendary Congressman John Murtha, chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on defense, recently won a controversial $23 million grant for the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) in his home district. So far, his fellow Democrats have not acted to strip that money from the spending bill despite the stink caused by the grant; nor have they reprimanded Murtha for allegedly threatening to cut projects in the district of Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan after the latter tried to axe the NDIC funding.
Incidentally, the New York Times recently ran an article reporting that this year Murtha “has obtained $163 million in pet projects—more than anyone else in Congress and more than his own previous record of about $100 million.” The story said that House lawmakers have “put together spending bills that include almost 6,500 earmarks for almost $11 billion in local projects,” including $63 million worth of projects in or near the district of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco. On a smaller scale, the House supported a $2 million earmark to buy a building for Congressman Charlie Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to have a “well-furnished office,” a “Rangel Library,” and personnel to organize his “photographs and memorabilia.”
Given the large number of Republican lawmakers under federal investigation–with the illustrious Senator Ted Stevens being only the latest example–it’s impossible to take seriously the GOP’s attempt to seize the mantle of morality. (A representative pious quote from NRCC Communications Director Jessica Boulanger: “It’s baffling that the Democrats would so willingly . . . violate the trust of the American taxpayer. After a shameful final sprint of broken rules and broken promises, the House will adjourn for the summer on a low note.”) And despite the efforts of Murtha and other kindred spirits, the Democrats aren’t even close to racking up the record levels of pork approved by the GOP-led Congress in recent years. Still, they’re working on it, and the party’s record to date makes it easy for Boulanger to mock the Democratic promise to run the “most honest, most open, and most ethical Congress in history.”
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”