Pork, Pork and More Pork


Congressional watchdog groups have ferreted out a record 5,696 local road projects buried in the new highway bill. These little twinkles in the eyes of incumbents and gifts to local construction companies are going to cost taxpayers at least $21 billion, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

One of the most controversial involves a $230 million down payment on the Knik Arm Bridge, a 13,500-foot span across the straits north of Anchorage, Alaska, that is expected eventually to cost $1.5 billion. The project was mothballed two decades ago after engineers concluded there were major geographic hurdles in the way of construction, and the project has been ridiculed as “the bridge to nowhere” because it links with vacant lands. But the “Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users” declares the river is to be spanned, and the bridge will be branded “Don Young Way,” which makes it evident which lawmaker won this prize (he’s chairman of the House Transportation Committee).

There’s also $3 million in the bill for “the production of a documentary about infrastructure that demonstrates advancements in Alaska, the last frontier.”

—– 

Pentagon panjandrums are ordering an end to another naval tradition: electronic technology is replacing the paper charts that ship captains have used since Columbus to laboriously plot their course safely.

By 2009, the U.S. Navy plans to have new interactive Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems installed in all ships and submarines. Northrop Grumman, developer of the system, says similar digital charting is already in widespread civilian use on oil tankers and cruise ships.

—–

Citizens have a right to refuse to be searched by police patrols in subway and railroad stations, say civil-liberties groups. The organization Flex Your Rights recommends that those who don’t want to be searched tell the police: “Officer, I do not consent to any searches.” But the group cautions that people exercising their rights in these terrorist times shouldn’t then do something foolish. “Warning, do not run. If you refuse to be searched and run into the station, you could be shot to death.”

—–

What’s pushing legislation speeding through Congress that would block civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers?

It’s not just the gun lobby. The Pentagon’s general counsel, Daniel Dell’Orto, frets the military won’t get all the guns it needs if the industry is crippled with civil liability judgments. The gun industry “plays a critical role in meeting the procurement needs” of the military, he tells lawmakers in a letter.

—–

With President Bush’s plans to overhaul Social Security stalled, opponents plan to use the August recess to pressure Republican lawmakers to declare they’re opposed.

Americans United to Protect Social Security, the group that put lawmakers’ photos on milk cartons, boasts it is on the verge of victory. It is staging Social Security celebrations in 200 congressional districts this month to press non-committal lawmakers to commit.

P.S. Note that Bush isn’t bringing up his Social Security plan much in recent appearances.

—–

Look for President Bush to make a recess appointment of John Bolton to be the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Senate Republican leader Bill Frist of Tennessee last month promised Bush an up-or-down vote on the nominee, but Senate nose counts found opposition to Bolton’s nomination was solidifying. A recess appointment gives Bolton a year in the U.N. job and allows the White House to claim some face-saving measure of victory.

—–

Newly minted Marine Corps Order P1020.34G allows female jarheads the choice of wearing diamond-studded or pearl earrings with their evening dress uniforms. Before this change, they were permitted only pearl earrings.

—–

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who forced the evacuation of the U.S. Capitol last year when his plane ventured into the no-fly security zone, wants to spend $14 million to buy a new airplane and helicopter.

(Contact Lance Gay at GayL(at)SHNS.com.