Posts belonging to Category Federal government



Pay raises aren’t just for the Caroline BOS: Congress gives them a pay raise.

Love the headline: With economy in shambles, Congress gets a raise:

A crumbling economy, more than 2 million constituents who have lost their jobs this year, and congressional demands of CEOs to work for free did not convince lawmakers to freeze their own pay.

Instead, they will get a $4,700 pay increase, amounting to an additional $2.5 million that taxpayers will spend on congressional salaries, and watchdog groups are not happy about it.

“As lawmakers make a big show of forcing auto executives to accept just $1 a year in salary, they are quietly raiding the vault for their own personal gain,” said Daniel O’Connell, chairman of The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), a non-partisan group. “This money would be much better spent helping the millions of seniors who are living below the poverty line and struggling to keep their heat on this winter.”

H/t: Little Green Footballs

Pop quiz: How are Caroline County and the federal government alike?

Both of them built visitors center that went over-budget and took forever to complete (Citizens Against Government Waste Press Release):

The nation’s premier taxpayer watchdog group, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today expressed dismay over the exorbitant final price tag for the Capitol Visitors Center (CVC).

Initially conceived in the early 1990s and projected to cost $71 million, the CVC has become an example of out-of-control government contracting and mismanagement. After costs ballooned and construction schedules spiraled out of control, the three-level, underground monument to congressional excess finally came in at a whopping $621 million and three years behind schedule.

“The mismanagement and bloat associated with the construction of the Capitol Visitors Center is emblematic of the rampant waste in the nation’s capitol,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “This boondoggle should give pause to anyone contemplating the expenditure of hundreds of billions more taxpayer dollars for any federal infrastructure projects as part of any new stimulus package. Like the federal budget itself, Congress used the CVC as a warehouse for tens of millions of dollars in extravagant bells and whistles for itself. Even more reprehensible, members of Congress seeking to add special features for themselves used security concerns surrounding the September 11 attacks to justify their extravagant add-ons and constant change orders.”

H/t: Matt “threat to Democracy” Drudge

Is “Total Information Awareness” back?

Looks like it’s time for me to join the conspiracy theorists (CNET):

The whopping housing bill that President Bush signed into law last week does far more than merely address the nation’s real estate woes. Some sections have raised serious privacy concerns.

Tucked in near the end of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act is a requirement that banks and online payment networks annually collect and report to the IRS electronic payments made to online merchants. It takes effect in 2011, and will affect what information companies like PayPal collect from their sellers and could raise privacy and auditing complications.

The housing bill also finalized the SAFE Mortgage Licensing Act. As CNET News.com previously reported, the provision creates a national fingerprint registry of “loan originators”–essentially anyone involved in the mortgage industry. While intended to curb predatory lending, the measure has come under fire for being potentially ineffective and unnecessarily invasive.

For the uninitiated, the term “total information awareness” comes from the mission statement of the supposedly-defunct DAPRA organization — the Information Awareness Office — which reads: “imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness” (The New Yorker).

Note the use of the term “supposedly-defunct”, here’s what the American Civil Liberties Organization (ACLU) said in March 2008:

The American Civil Liberties Union responded today to a stunning new report that the NSA has effectively revived the Orwellian “Total Information Awareness” domestic-spying program that was banned by Congress in 2003. In response, the ACLU said that it was filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for more information about the spying. And, the group announced that it was moving its “Surveillance Clock” one minute closer to midnight.

“Congress shut down TIA because it represented a massive and unjustified governmental intrusion into the personal lives of Americans,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the Washington Legislative Office of the ACLU. “Now we find out that the security agencies are pushing ahead with the program anyway, despite that clear congressional prohibition. The program described by current and former intelligence officials in Monday’s Wall Street Journal could be modeled on Orwell’s Big Brother.”

The ACLU said the new report confirmed its past warnings that the NSA was engaging in extremely broad-based data mining that was violating the privacy of vast numbers of Americans.

The Total Information Awareness (TIA) program was a mammoth data mining program that envisioned programming computers to trawl through an extensive list of databases containing personal information about Americans – including communications, medical, travel, education and financial data – in an attempt to detect supposedly “suspicious” patterns. Congress shut down the program amid bipartisan objections that it was the most far-reaching domestic surveillance proposal that had ever been offered.

H/t: Virginia Coalition of Open Government listserv

Steven Hatfill exonerated; the real anthrax mailer commits suicide.

Los Angeles Times:

A top government scientist who helped the FBI analyze samples from the 2001 anthrax attacks has died in Maryland from an apparent suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him for the attacks, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who for the last 18 years worked at the government’s elite biodefense research laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Md., had been informed of his impending prosecution, said people familiar with Ivins, his suspicious death and the FBI investigation.

Ivins, whose name had not been disclosed publicly as a suspect in the case, played a central role in research to improve anthrax vaccines by preparing anthrax formulations used in experiments on animals.

Regarded as a skilled microbiologist, Ivins also helped the FBI analyze the powdery material recovered from one of the anthrax-tainted envelopes sent to a U.S. senator’s office in Washington.

Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, said a friend and colleague, who declined to be identified out of concern that he would be harassed by the FBI.

[…]

The anthrax mailings killed five people, crippled national mail service, shut down a Senate office building and spread fear of further terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The extraordinary turn of events followed the government’s payment in June of a settlement valued at $5.82 million to a former government scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, who was long targeted as the FBI’s chief suspect despite a lack of any evidence that he had ever possessed anthrax.

Make sure you investigate Tom Clancy for the September 11th attacks.

$5.8 million for scientist in anthrax lawsuit

H/t: Matt “threat to democracy” Drudge.

Republicans support $290,000,000,000 corporate welfare bill.

The WaPo:

The House yesterday passed a final version of a new five-year farm bill by a vote of 318 to 106, a margin large enough to override President Bush’s promised veto of the nearly $300 billion measure.

[…]

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer released a statement saying the vote “sends the wrong message to the rest of the country who are not experiencing the boom of the agriculture sector,” and, “This bill is loaded with taxpayer funded pet projects at a time when Americans are struggling to buy groceries and afford gas to get to work.”

Bush has charged that the bill allows payments to wealthy individuals. He has also criticized restrictions on the use of food aid dollars in the midst of food shortages abroad, and he said that protectionist provisions, including “an egregious new sugar subsidy program,” could worsen trade relations.

The United Nations and the World Trade Organization have increasingly gotten annoyed at the massive subsidies provided by the United States Government (The WaPo, different link).

Vote round-up provided by James Atticus Bowden at his blog:

Democrats — Boucher, Y; Moran, Y; Scott, Y.

Republicans — Drake, Y; Forbes, Y; Goodlatte, Y; Wittman, Y;

Fiscal Conservative Republicans – Goode, N;Cantor, N; Davis, Tom, N; Wolf, N.

Wolf, Goode and Cantor have farmers in their districts, yet they voted “No”. Good job, guys.

And the corporate welfare aspect:

Continues to subsidize millionaires. Cur­rently, all full-time farmers may be eligible for farm subsidies regardless of income (part-time farmers must earn less than $2.5 million annu­ally). President Bush reasonably proposed lim­iting farm subsidies to those who earn less than $200,000 a year.

Rather than follow that commonsense approach, the conference agreement reportedly rejects all farmer income tests for the countercyclical and marketing loan subsidy programs and includes only a weak net farm income cap for direct pay­ments ($750,000 for single farmers and $1.5 million for married farmers after all business de­ductions). Direct payments would also be re­stricted to singles with non-farm incomes under $500,000 ($1 million for married couples).

That is not reform. Farmers with incomes in the millions of dollars would still be eligible for permanent subsidies. Farm subsidies would remain America’s largest corporate welfare pro­gram: Most subsidies would continue to go to large agribusinesses. President Bush is right to insist that farmers earning more than $200,000 per year no longer be eligible for subsidies.

Contributor to Rob Wittman’s (R) campaign gets his organization awarded with $3,125,000 in earmark requests.

UPDATE: Total amount fixed in the title and body. Thanks D.J.

That would be Richard Pearce and Riverside Health System.

On August 29, 2007, Richard Pearce gave $500 to Rob Wittman’s House of Delegates reelection campaign despite not living in Wittman’s district (not that that is illegal or anything) (VPAP).

Missed this: On October 22, 2007, Richard Pearce gave $500 to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) (FEC). The majority of Wittman’s money ended up coming from the NRCC (FEC).

On December 14, 2007, Richard Pearce gave $2,000 (the maximum an individual contributor can give to a candidate is $2,300 [FEC]) to Wittman’s campaign for the special election to replace the late Jo Ann Davis (Contributions to Wittman’s campaign from the FEC).

Richard Pearce is the President/CEO of Riverside Health System (Riverside Health System).

Sometime this week, Rob Wittman finally got around to posting his requested earmarks on his website and lo and behold the following (Appropriation Requests FY 2009):

Project Name: Riverside Hospital Emergency Preparedness

Requested By: Riverside Health System

Amount Requested: $1,050,000

[…]

Project Name: Riverside Health System, Patient Navigator Program

Requested By: Riverside Health System

Amount Requested: $575,000

[…]

Project Name: Riverside Radiosurgery Center Synergy Project

Requested By: Riverside Health System

Amount Requested: $1,500,000

That’s $3,125,000 in earmarks for the organization of a major contributor.

How convenient…

The only other hospital to receive funding was Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in the amount of $1,325,000. Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters isn’t even located in his district. It’s in Bobby Scott’s (D) 3rd Congressional District.

The right-wing liberal has more, by the way.

More to come kids.

What hypocrisy: Wittman condemns Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “rejecting” earmark moratorium while requesting $132,500,000.00 in earmarks.

File under: Chutzpah.

He also has yet to publish his requested earmarks on his website as he has promised.

First, one of Wittman’s press releases dated February 7, 2008:

Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA) released the following statement after today’s procedural motion to force a vote on an immediate earmark moratorium.

“I am disappointed that Speaker Pelosi has rejected a Republican invitation to place an immediate moratorium on all government funded earmarks. I believe this is an issue that we must find common ground on, and that we must do so immediately. Unfortunately, congressional Democrats do not feel the same way.

Wittman’s views on “Wasteful Spending”:

I am committed to fight against wasteful spending and expose the fraud and abuse in Washington. We need to get back to the conservative principles of controlling spending, particularly when it comes to federal earmarks, commonly referred to as “pork barrel” projects.

From The Daily Press via the “VA GOP Network”:

About 65 people crammed into 40 seats and stood along the walls of a meeting room at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites in Newport News for about two hours. What they heard was U.S. Representative Rob Wittman and state Delegates G. Glenn Oder and Brenda Pogge discuss their legislative agendas while railing against excessive governmental spending and, frequently, the Democratic Party.

[…]

Wittman spoke of reforming the tax code and legislative earmarking, extending tax cuts and curtailing entitlement programs — particularly Medicaid, Medicare and defense spending, that he said would in five years account for 96 percent of federal government discretionary spending.

“If we don’t get our arms around these particular issues we’re going to have trouble, Wittman said. “We have to find ways of doing things without spending ourselves into oblivion.”

Uh…he wants to cut defense spending in the middle of two wars? Aren’t there five military bases in his Congressional District, as he is so happy to point out?

Comforting…

And from a document distributed by the Stafford County Republican Committee (.DOC file) touting Wittman’s “conservative record” (snort):

Rep. Wittman has joined the members of the Republican Conference to demand reform of earmarks by calling for a Joint Select Committee on Earmark Reform and an earmark moratorium until additional guidelines are recommended.

And now, from the Media General News Service:

As his colleagues debated a moratorium on congressionally-directed budget earmarks this month, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., requested $132.5 million for local projects.

[…]

In his first budget cycle, Wittman sought funding for 52 projects. The largest is $17.5 million to replace a 40-year-old missile support facility at the Navy’s Dahlgren Division in King George Co.

Uh…didn’t he just say he was going to cut defense spending?

Did he vote for it before he voted against it?

[…]

Side-stepping the intra-party debate over new House earmark policies, Wittman said he made sure his requests were supported by local agencies, contained non-federal funding, and pledged to publish his requests on his Web site.

“What we try to do is step out in front and develop our own policy and be sure we are transparent,” Wittman said.

Funny, he hasn’t posted the information on either of his websites yet (Google search of his official website and his campaign website). I guess the media gets a list of his earmarks, but us lowly serfs in the First Congressional District don’t. And how exactly would a federal earmark not contain federal funding? Continued:

But critics said it would have been better for him to not participate in the earmark process at all.
“He’s not starting off very well,” said Paige. “If he’s already climbing on the runaway train that is the earmark culture in Congress, he’s going in the wrong direction.”

Critics also say the earmark process increases spending, because lawmakers support each other’s pet projects.

Wittman said he will suggest “spending reductions in other places to offset spending for (his) earmarks.”

Um, yeah, sure, I believe that. Apparently he’s going to reduce spending by increasing spending to pay for people’s health insurance in the tune of $5,000,000 in FY09 and 10, increasing to $10,000,000 in FY11 and 12, and hitting $20,000,000 in FY13 as a cosponsor of H.R.5405. (I must have missed the part of the United States Constitution that includes the provision to pay for people’s health insurance.) Continued:

[Eric] Cantor [R-7th CD] made no appropriation requests for the second year in a row and has called on lawmakers to follow suit while Congress considers reforms to the earmark process.

In closing, to quote P. J. O’Rourke: “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”

And: “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.

Outragous

Wesley Snipes gets 36 months (3 years) in federal pen for not filing his taxes.

Meanwhile, a man that didn’t file tax returns for three years only got 8 months in federal pen.

Meanwhile, a guy gets one year in prison for running a business of his city office and tax evasion.

Meanwhile, a former teacher only gets 5 years for child pornography.

Meanwhile, a guy gets five years for receiving and distributing child pornography.

Meanwhile, a guy that downloaded child pornography that included the sexual torture of infant and toddlers only gets 7 years.

Need I continue?

So much for proportionately.

Am I the only one that thinks this smells fishy?

On December 10, 2007, The Free Lance–Star reported that Caroline County had received a $100,000 grant (hey, I found more money for a full-time Commonwealth’s Attorney!) from the Virginia Department of Transportation to “study building a passenger rail station in the Carmel Church area”. Further, The Free Lance–Star reported:

To join Virginia Railway Express, Caroline would have to become a member of a transportation commission and levy a 2 percent gas tax.

On December 26, 2007 President George Bush signed the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008“, which contains an earmark by the late Representative Jo Anne Davis in the amount of $490,000 for a “Commuter Rail Station at Carmel Church, VA”.

Now, I see this going down one of two ways:

  1. “Well, the study says we need VRE and what great timing since we have $490,000 from the federal government to pay for a rail station. Frankly, we don’t care what you [the citizens] have to say about the gas tax!”
  2. “The study says we don’t need VRE but we can’t turn this $490,000 down! I don’t care if you [the citizens] don’t like the gas tax or not! We are getting VRE!”

One current supervisor has stated: “I did not and will not support a gas tax.” Gut check time.


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