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Several Pennsylvania residents wrote in about yesterday’s post on how lobbyists and defense contractors with ties to Congressman John Murtha have such extraordinary success winning earmarks out of his House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.
One reader sent an email that said:
I’d just note that for all the millions flowing into the Johnstown area courtesy of Murtha, it’s not like the residents are rolling in dough; they might qualify for a factory or call-center job or something. But it’s not like Cambria County is the Silicon Valley of SW PA. On the other hand, Murtha is such a good ol’ boy and has so many people convinced that he’s bringing jobs to the area (admittedly, the employment picture there would be bleaker without his vacuum cleaner going) that he’ll never lose his seat.
The email came from a “Pittsburgh resident and employee of a high-tech company that’s sold a lot of gear and software to some of those Johnstown shops.”
Another reader, Tim, took a different view:
I’m not arguing about John Murtha’s character, but isn’t he ultimately helping his constituents by bringing employment opportunities to an economically depressed area? The government itself even eliminates some competition by setting up awards that can only go to companies operating in a depressed area. I grew up in the area of Argon’s main PA office and was hired shortly after finishing school at about the same time the facility opened. SW PA is losing people of my generation faster than any other area in the country due to the lack of employment opportunities. I would likely have left the area as well if I hadn’t been given the opportunity to work there. I can honestly say that Argon is very generous to their employees…Until there’s proof of Murtha profiting personally from these contract awards, it seems that he’s just doing his job by helping the people of his district.
For my part, I tend to agree with the first writer. I’m obviously not opposed to creating jobs in Murtha’s district, but earmarking has been completely corrupted. Awards are not based on merit, but simply on who has the best political connections.
When someone as ethically-challenged as Murtha gets involved, the process of winning earmarks is essentially reduced to legalized bribery: companies that are willing to hire the congressman’s pals as lobbyists and make big campaign donations get the most pork. Whether they are the best qualified company, whether the money is being well-spent and whether the jobs are good or not all become secondary questions.
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.”