House To Vote Again To Defund Acorn

As if holding 37 useless votes to repeal Obamacare wasn’t bad enough, the House is set once again to vote to defund the Association of Community Organizations for Reform aka ACORN. The only problem? ACORN hasn’t existed for over 3 years.

House Republicans are scheduled to vote on two separate budget bills this week, each of which would reject funding for the poverty activism group ACORN, despite the fact that ACORN disbanded three years ago.

ACORN, also known as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, came under heavy fire in the fall of 2009 after conservative videographer James O’Keefe released a set of selectively edited videos that appeared to show its employees offering advice on tax avoidance related to prostitution and child smuggling. Independent investigations by the California attorney general, the Massachusetts attorney general and the Brooklyn, N.Y., district attorney would later clear ACORN of criminal wrongdoing, and an investigation by the Government Accountability Office would clear ACORN of charges that it mishandled federal funds.

How about voting 37 times to repeal the Patriot Act instead…or even once?

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Apparently $6.2 Billion Doesn't Go As Far As It Used To

Having been stationed on 3 different aircraft carriers during my time in the Navy I can remember when $6.2 billion would buy US taxpayers a ship that had toilets that usually worked at least somewhere. True we had many issues in isolated areas of the ship often caused by clothing or some other type of foreign object being flushed but what is going on onboard the Navy’s newest carrier, the George H.W. Bush, is something else altogether.

The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier has a messy problem. Since deploying in May, the Norfolk, Va.-based carrier George H.W. Bush has grappled with widespread toilet outages, at times rendering the entire ship without a single working head.

But it’s no laughing matter. Sailors tell of combing the ship for up to an hour to find a place to do their business, if they can find one at all. Others have resorted to urinating in showers or into the industrial sinks in their work stations. Some men are using bottles and emptying the contents over the giant ship’s side, while some women are holding it in for so long that they are developing health problems, according to sources on the ship.

The article goes on to document that since the ship was commissioned in early 2009, the poor snipes in the Bush’s engineering department have spent over 10,000 man hours keeping the waste system operational including at least one 35 hour stretch where not one of the 400 plus toilets worked.

So what does the Navy have to say about their $6 billion dollar plumbing headache?

Instead of calling out the contractor who supplied the system that the Navy freely admits was designed with unusually narrow waste pipes, they blame the sailors on the USS Bush all while claiming that a 94% uptime for the system that has no back up is acceptable.

The Navy, in a written statement, acknowledged problems with the system since the ship was delivered in May 2009. Sailors have spent more than 10,000 man hours addressing the toilets’ vacuum system on this deployment, averaging roughly 25 calls per week for commode problems. Most problems were fixed within 24 hours, with some requiring just a few minutes of work, said a statement from Naval Air Force Atlantic, adding that the ship had a “94 percent availability of commodes” throughout the deployment.

AIRLANT said most issues occurred when inappropriate materials were flushed down the toilets. Sailors onboard the ship said that everything from feminine hygiene products to clothes have been unclogged from the network of pipes. When used as intended, the system works well and most problems can be fixed in minutes, AIRLANT said.

As a former sailor I can tell you that of course 94% availability is fine…as long as you don’t have to go during the other 6% and throw in a few 35 hour system wide outages and 94% doesn’t look as rosy. Even on the USS Midway, a 45 year old ship at the time I was stationed on her, these types of outages were unheard of but would at least be understandable. But on a 2 year old state of the art carrier?

Come on now…

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EAS Funding Side Effects

I know the cut, cut, cut, mentality is all the rage these days in Washington and one of the programs being looked at is the Essential Air Service funding that provides subsidies to allow commercial air service out of smaller cities across the country. The program provides approximately $200 million (or about $182 per passenger) at 140 airports including Watertown ($1.3 Million) and Huron ($1.7 Million) here in South Dakota. These subsidies are often the only thing allowing these smaller cities to provide commercial air service.

Looking at just the numbers there is some obvious problems with how the program is being run. When you see airports like Ely, Nevada getting $5,223 per passenger it is no wonder that the suddenly cost conscious are looking to trim the fat. What you aren’t hearing though is some of the possible side effects of completely gutting the program.

If we just look at South Dakota for example. Huron is served by Great Lakes Airlines, and Watertown by Mesaba Airlines, companies whose business model relies on providing small aircraft to service rural airports, most of which rely on EAS funding. Shuttering the EAS program would likely put Great Lakes out of business and possibly Mesaba as well. As our local tea partiers would say, no big deal, if they can’t make it without government help then they don’t deserve to be in business anyways right?

Of course there is one small problem with that logic. With no Mesaba or Great Lakes Airlines, Aberdeen and Pierre also lose as those carriers are the only ones serving those cities meaning that while EAS funding only directly subsidizes Huron and Watertown, South Dakota could lose so much more. How many state capitols do you know of that don’t have commercial air service and how hard will it be to sell our cheap slave labor to out of state businesses when they have to fly into Sioux Falls or Rapid City and then drive 200 miles to get to the top secret Governors hunt?

Our economy is in a world of hurt highlighted by loads of wasteful spending and the EAS program is no exception. Cutting it out completely and saving $200 million right off the bat might look good now, but remember every action usually comes with a reaction and in South Dakota it could be more than we bargained for.

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The Check Will Be In The Mail

Not only is the centerpiece of President Bush’s “stimulus” plan going to put our government (and hence you and I) billions of dollars further into debt, it will cost us another 42 million just to tell us so.

WASHINGTON – At a cost of nearly $42 million, the IRS wants you to know: Your check is almost in the mail.

The Internal Revenue Service is spending the money on letters to alert taxpayers to expect rebate checks as part of the economic stimulus plan.

The notices are going out this month to an estimated 130 million households who filed returns for the 2006 tax year, at a cost $41.8 million, IRS spokesman John Lipold confirmed.

What’s a few million more between friends?

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At Least He Is Consistent

Pork and earmarks seem to be the buzzwords of the day on the heels of the Tim Johnson sponsored $1M earmark for the Daschle Center for Public Service and Representative Democracy (what a name, how much of the $1M is for the building sign?) at SDSU. When talking pork and politics you seem to get a lot of doublespeak and hypocrisy and our Reps aren’t immune.

First Badlands Blue calls out John Thune’s criticism of earmarks in the wake of this bill considering his support of the Robert Dole Institute of Politics just a few years ago at the University of Kansas.

Gee, that’s interesting, because I could have sworn John Thune was in the House of Representatives for the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas and the name change from Washington National to Reagan National airport by bill S. 1575, which passed in the House by voice vote on February 5, 1998. John Thune supported both pieces of legislation. It is especially noteworthy that Thune voted yes for the Conference Report of the FY 1999 appropriations bill, which included the late edition earmark for the Dole Institute.

Then PP over at the SDWC calls out our lone Congress person Stephanie Herseth Sandlin who when running for office spoke out against earmarks but is now happy to let us know she supports this $1M waste of money.

“She is very supportive of the project, which will enhance the educational experience for our state’s students and improve the course offerings of one of our state’s premier universities,” Levsen said. “As a South Dakota State graduate, it’s fitting that Sen. Daschle’s papers be archived in Brookings.”

So what is missing from a listing of hypocrisy over this latest piece of pork? How about any mention of hypocrisy aimed at the South Dakota Senator who was responsible for sneaking the earmark into the appropriations bill in the first place. A little digging on my part has yet to find anyone calling him out on it because apparently he has no problem with the tactic of throwing earmarks into spending bills. In fact he has even been given special mention as having a perfect record on pork by voting against all 10 amendments he was present for that sought to reign in this wasteful practice.

The only senator receiving a 0% was Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) who voted against all 10 anti-pork amendments he was present for.

If anything, it appears no one can say that Senator Johnson has flip flopped on this issue…

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Our Reps Sure Want To Throw Wasted Tax Dollars To Brookings Lately

Yesterday I wrote how Senator John Thune wants to send $1M in tax dollars a year to allow 3 passengers a day to fly out of Brookings and this morning I see that Senator Tim Johnson is looking to waste some of our tax dollars as well. Apparently not wanting to be outdone by his Republican counterpart, Johnson is looking to send another $1M to Brookings when he quietly sponsored a $1M earmark to a federal appropriations bill that would be used to help fund the Tom Daschle Center on the SDSU campus.

A massive federal appropriations bill that includes a $1 million earmark to create a center for former Sen. Tom Daschle drew heavy fire Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

The earmark would pay for the Thomas Daschle Center for Public Service and Representative Democracy at South Dakota State University. It’s among 150 pages of earmarks in a combined bill for education, health services, veterans programs, and other areas of federal government.

The legislation is more than 850 pages and emerged Monday night out of a joint House/Senate conference committee. Within those pages is more than $215 billion of discretionary spending.

Although the bill emerged Monday night, House Democrats pressed ahead Tuesday night to force a vote. That outraged fiscal conservatives, who argue the bill is overloaded with pork.

150 pages of earmarks and $215B in discretionary spending? So much for reform.

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