Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Your Tax Dollars at Work: Wine Research and Parisian Fruit Flies

While American troops are keeping terrorists at bay, the American Congress is busy spending money.

Here's a sample of how money that could have been used for ammunition and armor has been spent. If you're an American, some of this is your money.
  • $7,556,660
    Research on grapes and wine. Americans spent $27,800,000,000 on wine in 2006. It's hard to understand why tax dollars have to be spent on research. "Big Wine" influence in Washington???
    • As the son of an Irishman, and resident of a largely German region of Minnesota, I am personally appalled that a paltry $460,752 was spent on hops research. Wine may be a popular beverage, but beer is a grand drink.
    • Government waste is one thing: but frittering away ten times as much on wine, as on beer?! That's an insult!
  • $4,840,875
    Research into how wood can be used: including "refinement of processing technology for laminated veneer lumber for furniture, flooring, and other specialty industries."
    • Eventually, they may develop plywood.
  • $3,000,000
    The First Tee, intended "To impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf."
    • I think golf courses represent some of the finest landscape design in America, and that golfing without a cart is a great form of exercise. But: 'better character through golf?' Can't golf clubs pass the hat for this one?

  • $742,764
    Research on the olive fruit fly: including $211,509 for research in Paris, France
    • Remember those gags about congressmen going to France to study the Paris fish hatcheries?
  • $492,000
    The Rocky Flats Cold War Museum. Intended to show how Rocky Flats figured into manufacturing nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Now, the place has environmental contamination connected with nuclear weapons.
    • Okay, this one might be legit. If nuclear weapons production gave Rocky Flats a glow-in-the-dark landfill, maybe this museum is a reasonable payoff.
  • $344,540
    The City of Chicago GreenStreets Tree Planting Program sounds like a nice idea. It "focuses on improving the quality of urban life through tree planting and care, recycling and open space revitalization. This fifteen year old initiative serves as a successful model of how an investment in urban natural resources conservation can restore deteriorated neighborhoods and enhance public open space."
    • Translation: Change mean streets to green streets by planting trees. Maybe a little shade will help cool tempers in the summer.
    • I've no problem with the project, but why isn't Chicago paying for it?
There's more, like the $292,000 that went to Iowa's Figge Foundation: the famous Figge Foundation that put contributed $13,000,000 of its own money into the Figge Art Museum.

I picked these examples from the Citizens Against Government Waste "2008 CONGRESSIONAL PIG BOOK® SUMMARY" for their weirdness and gag value.

Some of the projects may even fall under the heading of national defense. "The olive fruit fly has infested thousands of California olive groves and is the single largest threat to the U.S. olive and olive oil industries," California Representative Mike Thompson, explained. (Maybe people protesting the fruit fly research should chant "No Labs for Oil!")

Even that golf program has a national defense connection. The First Tee is "for children on U.S. military bases." "It's a character building program, that seems to be working well for low income kids and that's why we do it throughout the United States of America. I just feel that children living on military installations ought to have this program as well," South Carolina's Representative Jim Clyburn explained.

Just the same: if these are worthy programs, let's fund them openly: not through earmarks on another bill. And, please: get a grip, Congress! There's a war on, and even America can't afford to blow money of Figge Foundations and wine research.

More at Citizens Against Government Waste and " 'Pig Book' names congressional porkers" CNN (April 2, 2008).


Anonymous said...

But beer has no known positive effects like red wine. Remember that red wine, in small and regular amounts, is good for you!

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks for commenting.

I know about the positive effects of wine. That tradition goes back a very long way.

However, the benefits of beer tend to be lost in the vinocentric upper crust culture. ("Vinocentric?" Sounds better than "winocentric," right?)

For example, back in August of 2002, the Wall Street Journal published an article on research into beer drinking (Health benefits of beer cited by the Wall Street Journal - Brief Article").

Dr. Norman D. Kaplan, professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, concluded that "the benefits of drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is well beyond contention."

That's moderate alcohol consumption. Here's what's surprising about Kaplan's beer research:

A study of 70,000 female nurses showed that moderate beer drinkers had less hypertension than nurses who drank either wine or spirits.

And, a survey of 128,934 adults in the Kaiser Permanente managed-care system showed that male beer drinkers had a statistically significant lower risk of coronary-artery disease than men who drank red wine, white wine or spirits.

The key point here is moderate, which the article defined as one or two 12-ounce glasses of beer a day for women or men, respectively.

About the health benefits of wine over beer, Dr. Kaplan said: "The wine people have done a major snow job" in pushing the idea wine is superior to beer or spirits.

I'm inclined to agree.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.