Thursday, May 22, 2008

Raiding the Treasury & Other Wrong Things

Most Boring Sounding Crime Ever - The Farm Bill

Oh boy! A post about the Farm Bill! When Gail Collins wrote that she was following it, I assumed she was joking.

If you're like me, hearing the words "farm bill" results in
  1. Dozing off
  2. Changing the channel
  3. Turning the page
  4. Squashing any secret, vague political ambitions
  5. All of the above.
But apparently it's really important! Really! Who knew? Not me. One reason why it's so important is that they only do one every five years. So it affects policy for a fairly long stretch.

The U.S. Treasury - Where the money used to be.

Word that I'm hearing is that The Farm Bill (of 2007 - it's a year late, natch) is a $307,000,000,000 (that's billions) vote buying scam. Most of it goes to farming companies in the form of subsidies. But a significant piece also funds food stamps and does some good things, too. But this Farm Bill is almost universally being called a shameful example of pork barrel vote buying in an election year. But hey, it's a farm bill. That means it must be about growing food! Doesn't that just sound like the government is doing something to make us all healthier? Apparently that's not the case.

What galls me is that the sugar industry get subsidies, tariff protection, and price supports. Why? To benefit "farmers" like the Fanjul Family, Palm Beach billionaires who not so vaguely remind a lot of people of The Godfather. Sugar? Didn't we all pretty much decide that sugar was bad for us? Why are we subsidizing sugar?

Sorry kid, no prom date for you.

Subsidizing sugar reminds me of the tobacco growers who were looking for government handouts when all of the "no smoking" rules were being passed. They tried calling themselves "family farmers" being forced out of business by oppressive government regulation. I don't know how that story ended, but everyone I knew pretty much equated tobacco farmers with crack dealers. Except that today we know that they would all vote for Hillary over Obama, cause she's white, even though Barry is the one who smokes.

Mr. Cool

But I digress . . .

Weirdly, at least for me, George Bush and John McCain are this bill's 2 most vocal opponents. So, good on them. Credit where credit is due, and all that. Still, I suspect that they have an angle here somehow.

$307 Billion is a good chunk of change. For that kind of money, we stay at war in Iraq for a whole nother year. Of course, we'll do that, too, whether we can afford it or not. You know, because it's patriotic and supports the troops, etc.

Obama basically said that the changes that the bill did accomplish were the best that we could hope for this time around. "This bill is far from perfect. I believe in tighter payment limits and a ban on packer ownership of livestock. As president, I will continue to fight for the interests of America's family farmers and ranchers and ensure that assistance is geared towards those producers who truly need them, instead of large agribusinesses. But with so much at stake, we cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good."

Eeeeew! He's so articulate! Having vented, that's probably the last I'll think about the Farm Bill for another 4 or 5 years.

War Crimes - Gitmo

Sorry about that!

This hairy German is Murat Kurnaz, and he spent nearly 5 years in the American prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He didn't look like this when he was "arrested" or "captured" or "kidnapped" or whatever it is that they call it these days.

He looked like this:


5 years can be a long time. Mr. Kurnaz was arrested by Pakistani police during a security stop of a bus, and turned over to the American Army for a $3,000 bounty in October 2001. Then he was sent to a prison in Afghanistan for 3 months, then to Gitmo in February 2002. But the real hoot here is that by late 2002, the Americans had already determined that Mr. Kurnaz was NOT a terrorist, and offered to return him to Germany, but Germany declined to take him. At this point in the timeline, officials have successfully fuzzed up the facts so that responsibility will probably be impossible to assign, which of course is the goal. But Mr. Kurnaz was finally released on August 24, 2006. When he got home to Germany, his own government did not want to admit it's own guilt, and so investigated him again. The press there dubbed him the "Taliban of Bremen." But he was ultimately cleared officially. Now he has been busy testifying to government committees in the US and Germany. So it's a happy ending. Except that his wife divorced him while he was in prison.

Internet Notes

So I'm looking at Craig's List and I notice that under the "For Sale" section there's a category called "Baby & Kids." Sounds like a cheap and lazy man's way to start a family.

My kids now like to download pictures of cartoon characters and play games on the Nickelodeon site. So I'm starting to worry about what else they might run into on the web. Is there a "safe" (meaning porn-free) internet service out there that anyone knows about?

Related quote (possible folklore alert) - "If you want to stop people from becoming like me, don't burn Catcher in the Rye . . . burn Hustler." - Ted Bundy, sadistic serial killer of women.

I'm currently the high bidder on e-bay for something I didn't tell my wife about. Talk about anxiety.