More  Pork  Barrel  Politics


This page contains the overflow from the Pork Page, which is a collection of news items about wasteful spending in general, and specific pet projects that certain Members of Congress have created to keep the people at home appeased.

Lately there have been subtopics that have generated a lot of discussion around the country.  In order to make the main page load a little faster, those subtopics have been moved to this page.

Subtopics on this page include:
The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006.
The Big Dig in Boston.
Senator Lott's Railroad Line — The Railroad to Nowhere.
Sweetheart deal for Boeing.
The National Endowment for the Arts.
The V-22 Osprey.
Amtrak.

On another nearby page, read my opinions about NASA, which was once a peaceful way to fight the Cold War, but has now degenerated into one of the biggest and most completely pointless pork barrel projects ever.



The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006

What's Next for the Spending Database?  Yesterday [9/10/2006], Bill Frist surprised everyone by seizing a propitious moment to demand a floor vote on S. 2590, the Coburn-Obama bill creating a searchable online database for all federal spending.  Taken aback, no senator present objected to a call for unanimous consent to the vote, and the bill passed by acclamation.

Give Us the Spending Database.  The idea of a transparency website — replete with search engines that include subcontractors — was born in May 2005 at a hearing on U.S. efforts to combat malaria.  Officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) squirmed as [Senator Tom] Coburn revealed that 93% of the agency's 2004 funding to eradicate malaria had been spent on administrative and advice-giving services.  In addition, not enough of these funds were spent overseas; too much was absorbed by high-paid U.S. consultants.

Who's Blocking the Taxpayer Accountability Bill?  A conservative advocacy group wants to know which U.S. senators are secretly blocking a bill that would make politicians more accountable to taxpayers.  The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (S. 2590) directs the Office of Management and Budget to set up a website that would allow the American public to see which "entities and organizations" are being funded with tax dollars.

Update:
Senator Stevens is 'the secret senator'.  The identity of the blogosphere's "secret senator" has been revealed.  CNN has confirmed that Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has placed a hold on a bill that would require the government to publish online a database of federal spending.  "He does have a hold on the bill," Stevens' spokesperson Aaron Saunders told CNN.

Senator Ted Stevens' Pork Tally:  It is simply amazing that one man has been responsible for spending this much of our money.

Senator Stevens as 'Secret Holder' is No Surprise.  Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today [8/30/2006] celebrated the end of a political whodunit with the revelation that it was Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) who placed a hold on the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (S. 2590).  The bipartisan legislation, introduced by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), will establish a public database for $800 billion worth of federal grants and contracts.  An anonymous hold had been placed on the legislation, preventing it from moving forward.  Grassroots pressure from a coalition of groups and bloggers from across the political spectrum prompted Sen. Stevens to confirm, through a spokesperson, that he is the one blocking the bill.

Is Congress spending your money in secret?  Congress is considering a bill -- the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations measure -- that presently contains 1,867 earmarks worth more than a half-billion tax dollars and averaging nearly $268,000 each.  Many are for things that sound like worthy causes such as "hospital facilities and equipment," yet none of the sponsoring congressmen put their names on their earmarks.

The Editor says...
The article above includes a state-by-state list of earmarks.  Earmarks in Texas include $650,000 going to Texas Tech University for a "Virtual Vietnam Archive", whatever that is.  Personally, I'd rather have a few more dollars in my paycheck.

The War on Pork Moves to the Web.  A week after a broad coalition of groups announced an extensive project to track and research the 1,867 pork projects hidden in the 2007 Labor-HHS appropriations bill, I have some good news to report.  Bloggers on the left and right have rallied to the cause.

Secrets in the Senate.  Their arrogance is stunning.  Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alas.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) are the acknowledged kings of pork-barrel spending.  They bring billons of taxpayer dollars to their states to ensure their hold on power.  But apparently, that's not enough.  They also want to make certain that you and I don't see what they get away with.  So secretly they tried to keep us in the dark.



The Big Dig in Boston
Collosal cost overruns combined with what appears to be shoddy materials and workmanship.

The latest:
Concrete in Big Dig tunnel ramps crumbling.  The state Transportation Department today announced it will need to shut down portions of Big Dig tunnel ramps to repair crumbling concrete.  The repairs will require lane closures for three consecutive Saturday nights as crews replace 600 feet of deteriorating concrete with asphalt on northbound 93, from the exit of the Tip O'Neill Tunnel to the first expansion joint of the Zakim Bridge, according to a MassDOT proposal.

State fires Big Dig's chief engineer.  The Patrick administration yesterday [8/2/2011] fired embattled Big Dig chief engineer Helmut Ernst, the latest official to be forced out over the state's handling of a light fixture collapse in one of the project's tunnels.

State officials reveal gap under I-90 tunnel.  State transportation officials revealed yesterday [8/10/2011] that soil thawing underneath a Big Dig tunnel has created a gap filled with water about 9 feet below the roadway.  But they said they are monitoring the issue and it does not pose any risk to the traveling public.

Sinkhole found in I-90 tunnel.  A massive "sinkhole" at least 4 feet deep and up to 190 feet long has created a "void" under the Interstate 90 connector tunnel in the problem-plagued Big Dig, adding to a growing list of engineering failures that include a deadly ceiling collapse, dangerously unstable light fixtures and lethal railings, state transportation officials revealed yesterday [8/10/2011].

The Union Job Security Act Equals Endless Road Construction.  Obama is pouring exorbitant amounts of money into road construction to create union jobs, even though costs in other sectors of the economy are decreasing due to rising deficits.  Throwing more money unaccountably at road construction is unwise considering what happened with the "Big Dig."

Big Dig lighting problems continue.  A work crew found another extensively corroded light fixture in a Big Dig tunnel Thursday, state transportation officials said yesterday [7/15/2011], five months after an identical 110-pound fixture came crashing down in the Tip O'Neill tunnel.

Metro's Dulles Rail needs life-cycle accounting.  From Boston's infamous "Big Dig" to Northern Virginia's Dulles Rail, the true cost of big-ticket construction projects is often hidden from taxpayers.  In "America's Greatest Highway Robbery," author Robert Skole outlines the cost overruns, shoddy construction, lax oversight and political corruption behind Boston's $22 billion (including interest) highway tunnel construction project.  From an initial estimate of $4 billion in today's dollars, the "Big Dig" wound up costing almost three times as much as the Panama Canal.

No jail time for two convicted in Big Dig concrete case.  Two former managers for Aggregate Industries NE Inc. who were convicted of supplying substandard concrete to Boston's Big Dig highway project have avoided jail terms.

Big Dig company pleads guilty.  The largest contractor on the Big Dig pleaded guilty yesterday to 39 federal charges of overbilling and lying about construction defects on the project, but prosecutors dropped five other charges that had implicated the company in the fatal 2006 collapse of the ceiling of the Interstate 90 tunnel.

Massachusetts settles with Big Dig contractor Modern Continental.  One of the Big Dig's largest contractors, Modern Continental Construction Inc., will pay $21 million in damages related to a fatal tunnel ceiling collapse as well as the cost of fixing leaks in the massive highway project, the state Attorney General's Office announced today [11/14/2008].  The company has also agreed not to perform any more work on the Big Dig.

Turnpike board approves toll hikes.  A debt-ridden Mass Pike is pushing the financial pain onto motorists who now face massive toll hikes that could take effect as early as March.  Public hearings and a final vote are still needed, but $2 tolls at the Weston and Allston-Brighton booths and a whopping $7 fee at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels are coming down the Pike. ... But chair Bernard Cohen said the authority had no choice, given the agency's massive Big Dig debt.

Big Dig's red ink engulfs state.  Massachusetts residents got a shock when state officials, at the peak of construction on the Big Dig project, disclosed that the price tag had ballooned to nearly $15 billion.  But that, it turns out, was just the beginning.

Boston "Big Dig" contractor seeks bankruptcy.  The largest contractor in Boston's $15 billion "Big Dig" road and tunnel construction project filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday [6/23/2008], one business day after it was charged with liability in a 2006 collapse.

Big Dig tunnels spring 237 leaks.  Despite repeated assurances that it had Big Dig leaks under control, the Turnpike Authority has allowed the number of leaks to explode in the last two years and has been forced to launch a fresh effort to plug hundreds of trouble spots, according to an analysis of Big Dig records.

Officials say Big Dig leaks are worse than thought.  Hundreds of Big Dig leaks have festered for years because of infighting and red tape, leading state officials to acknowledge flaws are worse than imagined and could permanently damage project tunnels, the Herald has learned.  "I feel we have inherited a project that is riddled with flaws, and it has become a major preoccupation," state Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen said yesterday in his first extensive public comments about massive tunnel leaks plaguing the $14.8 billion project.

Glue Maker for Big Dig Is Charged in '06 Death.  The supplier of the epoxy that federal officials have blamed for the collapse of a Big Dig tunnel was indicted Wednesday [8/8/07] in the death of a woman crushed by falling ceiling panels.  The company, Powers Fasteners Inc., was charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter.

Year after tunnel death, motorists relax.  One year after 12 tons of concrete ceiling panels fell in a Big Dig highway tunnel, crushing a car and killing a passenger, Dave Weibe can finally drive his own car through the tunnels without nervously eyeballing the ceiling.

Fore!  Score a bogey for Big Dig.  It has been called a boon doggle, a crime scene, and countless expletives spewed by drivers stuck in traffic.  Now authorities are investigating how the Big Dig — or, more precisely, a structure built for the project — became something else: the site of an unauthorized indoor driving range for state troopers who love golf.

State claims negligence in $ suit vs. Dig bigwigs.  The state is slamming Big Dig designers, builders and contractors with a mega-lawsuit today [11/27/2006] alleging their negligence led to the fatal tunnel collapse this summer and that the state is entitled to millions of dollars to cover the fallout.  Attorney General Tom Reilly is expected to file a civil suit today in Suffolk Superior Court alleging gross negligence, negligence and breach of contract against six companies involved in the "design, installation and oversight of the I-90 tunnel collapse," according to a state official familiar with the suit.

Big Dig's design cuts questioned.  Big Dig project managers persuaded the designer of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel ceiling to reduce by half the number of bolts supporting each ceiling hanger, the Boston Sunday Globe reported [9/17/2006].

Big Dig officials chose not to retest.  Project documents show that officials overseeing the Big Dig chose not to retest most of the bolts in the tunnel, including those that would suddenly fail seven years later, causing last month's fatal ceiling collapse.

Bad Days for the Big Dig.  It's no doubt true that the largest public works project in the nation's history has grown corpulent on federal largesse, soaring from an estimated price tag of $2.2 billion in 1983 to somewhere near $15 billion today.  And $15 billion hasn't yet bought a tunnel system free from hundreds of leaks (including a monster 300-gallon-per-minute gusher), falling debris, collapsing walls, and rampant fraud.

Agency chief quits over Big Dig death.  The chief of the agency overseeing Boston's Big Dig resigned Thursday [7/20/2006] under pressure from the governor, two weeks after falling concrete crushed a woman to death in her car.  The departure of Matthew Amorello, chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, was announced just 90 minutes before a hearing was supposed to begin on Gov. Mitt Romney's effort to remove him from the $14.6 billion highway project.

Poll suggests little confidence in tunnel safety;  Half blame contractors for problems.  The public primarily blames contractors for the fatal ceiling collapse in a Big Dig tunnel, but is deeply skeptical that anyone will be prosecuted, according to a new Boston Globe poll that indicates widespread cynicism and safety concerns about the $14.6 billion project.

Massport rejects parts of Big Dig.  The Massachusetts Port Authority is refusing to take ownership of a 3/4-mile section of the Ted Williams Tunnel and a nearby elevated ramp leading into Logan International Airport, saying the structures are in poor condition and require significant repairs, according to documents obtained by the Globe.

Critics Cite Lack of Big Dig Oversight.  When Boston's Big Dig was still on the drawing board, state and federal transportation officials picked an engineering powerhouse and a smaller, well-established firm to build the forbiddingly complex tangle of tunnels, ramps, bridges and highways.  And then, critics say, the officials stepped back and let the two companies do their job with little or no oversight.

Problems with bolts reported in 1994.  More than 4 percent of ceiling anchor bolts failed strength tests after being installed in the Ted Williams Tunnel in 1994, and the company installing the drop ceiling in the tunnel complained that the problem was at least partly caused by air pockets in the concrete roof.

The crumbling legacy of Tip O'Neill.  All politics is local, Tip O'Neill famously said, and it surely doesn't get any more local than when a 6,000-pound slab from a project championed by the late House speaker falls on a 38-year-old newlywed from the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, crushing her to death as her husband drives her to the airport.  O'Neill died in 1994, but the political culture he epitomized is alive and well and enshrined in the Big Dig, a slough of corruption, callousness, and cover-ups that had become a synonym for government mismanagement long before it killed Milena Del Valle on July 10.

Dig fixes may cost taxpayers.  When it comes to figuring out who is going to pay for the repairs to the Big Dig tunnels, it's an easy process of elimination. … The feds in 1997 officially cut off funding for the Big Dig at $8.54 billion.

Ceiling collapse is only the tip of Big Dig problems.  Tests conducted in 1999 reportedly showed that bolts holding the ceiling panel in the I-90 connector tunnel, where Milena Del Valle was killed, had a tendency to come loose, and inspections of the I-93 Big Dig tunnels early last year revealed 189 defective wall panels and more than 2,000 water leaks.  "The Big Dig was billed as something far different from what it became," [Gov. Mitt] Romney told The Washington Times on Wednesday [7/19/2006].  "It's been a hugely expensive and wastefully mismanaged project, and no wonder a lot of motorists keep their fingers crossed as they go through it," he said of the most expensive highway project in American history.

Nationwide search begun for other flawed tunnels.  Federal highway officials have sent out a nationwide appeal seeking to identify other tunnels that rely on the same bolt-and-epoxy ceiling fasteners whose failure is now being eyed as the cause of the Big Dig tunnel tragedy.

[This is a variation of the grade school alibi, "See?  Everybody else does it too!"  In this case, the officials are hoping to find at least one other highway tunnel that was built with faulty materials, but how many other tunnels cost $14.6 billion?]

Workers doubted ceiling method.  Field tests by construction workers indicated that bolt-and-epoxy fasteners might not support the multi-ton ceiling panels in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel, but the firm that designed the tunnel persuaded Big Dig officials to use the system anyway, law enforcement officials said yesterday [7/17/2006].

"Big Dig" collapse is a blow to urban dream.  Boston's $15 billion "Big Dig" was meant to inspire awe, an engineering marvel on scale with the Panama Canal that would thrust U.S. cities into a new era.  Instead, it faces a crisis of public confidence after a fatal tunnel collapse that could derail plans for other U.S. urban mega-projects.

[Good!]

Gov. Romney Takes Control of Big Dig Probe.  Gov. Mitt Romney signed legislation Friday [7/14/2006] giving him control of inspections in the Big Dig tunnel system, where falling ceiling panels fatally crushed a woman.  The legislation was passed overwhelmingly by the Legislature late Thursday, which would also give the governor ultimate say on when the tunnels reopen, instead of the Turnpike Authority chairman.

Politics Have Kept the Costly Big Dig Afloat.  The Massachusetts congressional delegation intensely lobbied colleagues to overturn a presidential veto by a single vote in the Senate in 1987, prying open the federal money spigot for the project.  Since then, political maneuvering by lawmakers, state officials and private contractors has kept the problem-plagued project awash in public money — despite critics who brand the Big Dig a $14.6 billion boondoggle.  "Politics created the Big Dig," said Jeffrey Berry, a Tufts University political science professor.  "It was a highly political project from the very beginning."

Massachusetts Tunnel Is Dedicated to Tip O'Neill.  O'Neill, who retired in 1987 and died in 1994, was instrumental in the project's earliest stages, battling a Reagan administration leery of its price tag even when it started at just $2.6 billion.  In the end the Big Dig cost more than $14.6 billion.

Big Dig problems may date back to 1999.  Contractors knew as early as 1999 that there were problems with some of the bolts attaching massive concrete panels to the ceiling of the Big Dig highway tunnel where a woman was crushed by 12 tons of falling concrete, Massachusetts' attorney general said.

Big Dig possible defect count quadrupled.  Inspectors on Thursday [7/13/2006] quadrupled to 240 the number of possible ceiling bolt problems in a Big Dig tunnel where a woman was crushed by falling concrete, a still-closed section at the center of Gov. Mitt Romney's push to oversee the safety of the troubled project.

60 bad fixtures found in ceiling.  Inspectors have found at least 60 faulty bolt fixtures that supported the ceiling of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel in the same section where concrete ceiling panels fell and crushed Milena Del Valle, state officials said yesterday [7/12/2006].

Two Cities, Two Approaches.  Officials say the Big Dig [was] more costly than the Panama Canal, the Alaska Pipeline or the Hoover Dam, if those investments were adjusted for inflation.

Boston's Big Dig Is Finally Completed.  When the clock runs out on 2007, Boston will quietly mark the end of one of the most tumultuous eras in the city's history:  The Big Dig, the nation's most complex and costliest highway project, will officially come to an end.

'Big Dig' Highway Contractor Agrees to $6 Million Settlement.  The family of a woman killed when the ceiling of a Big Dig tunnel collapsed on her car last year has agreed to a $6 million settlement with the company that supplied the epoxy blamed for the accident, an attorney said Monday [12/24/2007].

Big Dig deal criticized by contractor.  Prosecutors reached a $458 million settlement with contractors over tunnel defects that caused a fatal 2006 accident — but a small contractor that isn't involved in the agreement says it unfairly spares the most responsible party from criminal charges.  Under the deal announced Wednesday [1/23/2008], Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the multibillion-dollar consortium that oversaw design and construction of the Big Dig, the nation's costliest public works project, agreed to pay $407 million.

Shovel-ready white elephants.  It took 410 days to build the Empire State Building; four years to erect the Golden Gate Bridge.  The Pentagon took two years; the Alaska Highway just nine months.  These days it takes longer to build an overpass.  For instance, planning for Boston's "Big Dig" officially began in the early 1980s with a budget of $2.6 billion, but ground wasn't broken until 1991 and the last ramp wasn't opened until 2006.  The final estimated cost:  $22 billion.  According to the Boston Globe, it won't be paid off until 2038.

Update:
Big Dig tunnel light fix to cost $54 million.  It looks like the lights in the Big Dig tunnel must be replaced and it is not going to be cheap.  It's expected to cost about $54 million to replace the lights which were temporarily shored up with plastic ties.  The project is likely to cause frequent lane closures in the tunnels for up to two years.

The Big Dig:  Links to numerous news items about the project.



Senator Lott's Railroad Line — The Railroad to Nowhere

Railroad to the Casinos — A $700 Million Boondoggle.  If you thought the "bridge to nowhere" was too expensive, take a look at the price tag of the "railroad to the casinos."  The anticipated changing of a railroad route may not be a surefire route to riches for the citizens of Mississippi but it would be a straight flush for the casinos.  Economic conservatives are critical of this deal; social conservatives also should be.

A Lott of Baloney.  Senator Trent Lott wants to tear up a coastal rail line in Mississippi to build a highway.  CSX Railroad and its insurance company just spent $300 million to repair this rail line.  The $700 million Trent wants to turn it into a highway could end up being as much as $2.9 billion.

The CSX line in question seems to be in pretty good shape.

The 'Emergency' Loophole.  One wonders what $3.9 billion for farm and rancher subsidies or $594 million for highway projects unrelated to the Gulf Coast have to do with the war or hurricane relief.  The bill also contains $700 million to move a perfectly functioning rail line a couple of miles to allow private developers build a casino where the line is now.

Derail the Railroad to Nowhere
Derail the "Railroad to Nowhere" Earmark!  The "Railroad to Nowhere" is what budget watchdogs have nicknamed a $700 million earmark in pending Senate "emergency" spending legislation that would be used to rip up a fully functioning railroad that was rebuilt (at a cost of nearly $300 million) after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it last year.

Mississippi Burning Tax Dollars.  Just when you thought Republicans had sworn off pork spending, along comes an emergency appropriations bill that has Capitol Hill engulfed in the unmistakable aroma of bacon.

Sen. Lott's Next Amtrak-Style Boondoggle:  A 'Railroad to Nowhere'.  Today, the Heritage Foundation blog entry Getting Somewhere on the Railroad to Nowhere reports that this has become a much bigger story than Mississippi's Republican Senators Lott and Thad Chochran hoped.  Heritage's Ron Utt was poking around in Mississippi last week and "everybody knows that CSX's freight trains will be shifted off the tracks and the railway will be used for a trolley or some other kind of light rail as part of a New Urbanist scheme to construct a massive, amenity-stuffed Las Vegas knockoff along the Gulf Coast."

Bridge to November.  The inability of a handful of House Republicans to stomach a long-overdue belt-tightening reform is threatening to prevent the House from passing a budget resolution for the first time since 1974.  Fortunately for fiscal conservatives, a pork-laden spending bill has come along just in time to remind the public why this particular reform is so desperately needed.

No Left Turn.  Amnesty is not the most objectionable feature of the president's plan.  It is the combination of amnesty with laxity in enforcement and a new guest-worker program to which we object.

Stop the casino corridor.  First came Alaska's infamous "bridges to nowhere."  Now, an even more outrageous plan is afoot in Congress to blackjack taxpayers for a casino corridor along Mississippi's Gulf Coast.

U.S. spending grows at historic rate.  The Senate added a sister project to last year's failed "Bridges to Nowhere" project in Alaska.  The $700 million for the "Train to Nowhere" would relocate newly rebuilt train tracks near the coast of Mississippi.  The goal?  To develop a new Vegas-style gambling mecca.  Yet we're to believe these funds constitute a budget "emergency."

Desperate Attempt to Save Railroad to Nowhere.  The nationwide uproar over the inclusion of Mississippi's $700 million "railroad to nowhere" into the Senate's war-time and Katrina-relief supplemental spending bill has put the project's proponents on the defensive.

Railroad to Nowhere Scrapped?  Fortunately, some brave lawmakers quashed this notion, and the bill that emerged from conference stayed within the president's limit.  The "railroad to nowhere"?  Gone.

[Not so fast.  It has come back from the dead.]

The Railroad to Nowhere Still Lurks.  Once thought dead, Mississippi's Railroad to Nowhere appears to be back on track.

The railroad to nowhere lives.  An amendment introduced by Senator Tom Coburn challenging the Railroad to Nowhere has been defeated by a 49-48 vote.  Voting against $700 million for the Railroad to Nowhere:  Harry Reid, Senate Democratic Leader.  Voting in favor:  Senator Bill Frist, Senate Republican Leader.

The Railroad to Nowhere Chugs On.  The Senate narrowly missed defeating the so-called "Railroad to Nowhere."  Frist voted to spend the $700 million.  Minority Leader Harry Reid did not.  To be fair, the spending involved more than just the controversial railroad, which critics say is a giveaway to casino interests on the Mississippi gulf coast.  Will Senate Republicans ever get it?  This is precisely the type of thing that will hurt turnout in November.  It's sad that Harry Reid is apparently more reliable than Bill Frist on cutting wasteful spending.

The railroad to nowhere:  You've got to hand it to some Republican appropriators.  Despite swirling political winds that threaten to blow the GOP majority right out of town, they keep on keeping on.  Never mind … that it was only months ago that the Senate debate over the poster child of bad earmarking — the Alaskan Bridge to Nowhere — ignited a firestorm of criticism over the way Congress spends American tax dollars.  No, these considerations are a mere after thought — an annoyance — to many congressional appropriators who remain intent on bringing home the bacon, no matter what the cost.

Mississippi Senators' Rail Plan Challenged.  Critics of the measure call it a gift to coastal developers and the casino industry that would be paid for with money carved out of tight Katrina relief funds and piggybacked onto funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.



Sweetheart deal for Boeing:

Fill 'Er Up:  Back-Door Deal for Boeing Will Leave the Taxpayer on Empty.  Using back-room political tactics, Congress in December 2001 authorized the U.S. Air Force to lease 100 Boeing 767 converted tanker aircraft.  Not only would a lease deal cost the taxpayers billions of dollars more than purchasing the tankers outright, it would likely have the effect of reducing the numbers of tankers in the Air Force.  In a May 2002 report, the GAO concluded that with relatively cheap engine and avionics upgrades, the current fleet of 545 KC-135 tankers would not need to begin being replaced until 2040.

A Boon to Boeing:  Even prior to 9/11, the commercial aircraft line of Boeing, America's second-largest defense contractor, was sputtering.  Politicians, particularly those from Washington State — the home to Boeing's commercial airline division-were trying to help Boeing find a market for their planes.  During the post 9/11 bailout bonanza, someone came up with the brilliant idea of replacing the Air Force's refueling tankers with retrofitted 767s that could be leased from Boeing for billions.

CBO Says Tanker Lease is $6.7 Billion More than Purchase.  This new report further confirms that the current $29.8 billion Boeing tanker proposal will take taxpayers to the cleaners.  The federal government is guaranteeing Boeing the largest sale of 767s in the history of the production line and Boeing's response is to bilk us for billions.  The Air Force has negotiated a lease proposal that is packed full of creative and unique provisions that benefits Boeing's bottom line at the expense of taxpayers.

What is seen and what is obscene:  Boeing, the aerospace company, has been a seasoned recipient of government subsidies.  It was for ample reasons that the U.S. Senator from Washington was commonly called "the Senator from Boeing."

Mrs. Daschle's lucrative lobbying:  Mrs. Daschle's lobbying activities as senior public policy director of the law firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman and Caldwell have received only a small amount of press scrutiny, save for an account in the Washington Monthly earlier this year.  Her lobbying activities surfaced again recently because of a controversial proposal before the Senate to lease military aircraft from Boeing — a client of Mrs. Daschle since 1998, according to federal records.

Against corporate pork:  Early in December, two senior Defense Department officials met to wrap an early Christmas present for U.S. taxpayers.  There was no announcement, no publicity and, on the contrary, a reluctance to reveal what had happened.  They had killed a generous helping of corporate pork for the hard-pressed Boeing Co.

 Update:   Boeing's pay dirt:  Against advice from federal budget officials and its own outside advisers, the Defense Department boosted Boeing's ailing commercial aircraft business with a sweetheart Air Force leasing deal.


This is an original compilation, Copyright © 2013 by Andrew K. Dart


The National Endowment for the Arts

If there is one feature of our overgrown government that exemplifies a political hot potato, it must be the National Endowment for the Arts.  Ignoring for a moment the simple fact that it is a complete waste of money, the NEA takes money out of your paycheck to fund various "artistic" undertakings, most of which you'd be very generous to describe as "experimental".  I'm not opposed to artwork, but don't force me to buy it.

Apparently nobody in Washington is able to defend the projects funded by the NEA, yet no politician has the backbone to lead a movement to get rid of it.

NEA to buy votes with video-game grants.  The rarefied world of government arts funding apparently has run out of artists specializing in elephant-dung and human-urine media.  Now comes the National Endowment for the Arts' (NEA) announcement it will make grants for digital media — specifically video-game design.  I didn't know there was a video-game shortage requiring government intervention.

Harry Reid blasts 'mean-spirited' Republicans who want to cut taxpayer-funded poetry festival.  Amid calls for cuts to the federal budget, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid defended the National Endowment for the Arts during a floor speech Tuesday [3/8/2011], calling Republican proposals "mean-spirited" and saying events like government-funded poetry festivals should not be sacrificed to reduce the deficit.  "The mean-spirited bill, H.R. 1, eliminates National Public Broadcasting.  Now, that is really saying a lot, madam president.  It eliminates the National Endowment of the Humanities, National Endowment of the Arts.  These programs create jobs," Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said.

The radical art of deliberate offense.  In "Rules for Radicals," Saul Alinsky advises leftist organizers to antagonize opponents.  "The real action is in the enemy's reaction," he writes in his 1971 classic strategy manual.  "The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength."  The latest Alinsky-like assault involves a perennial tactic:  putting sacrilegious or indecent imagery on display at taxpayer expense and then screaming "censorship" when people predictably object.

National Endowment for the Arts Funds Translation of Marquis de Sade.  CNSNews.com presents this week's "Golden Hookah" to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for spending $12,500 to fund the translation of a novel by the Marquis de Sade.

The National Endowment for the Arts:  Whose Art?  When the Republicans took over the majority in Congress in 1994, they vowed to phase out the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) by 1998, but it still exists.  The NEA boasts a budget of $99.5 million per year and has spent more than $2.5 billion since its inception.

Government Funded Front Groups.  [Scroll down]  The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) uses federal money to fund not only chocolate covered obscenities they also fund art designed to promote the agenda of President Obama an activity which in other countries we call propaganda.  National Public Radio (NPR) using government funds and well chosen words to frame debates and shape opinion has long espoused the Progressive line from abortion to the man-made global warming hoax and the import-a-voter approach to immigration.

The Separation of Art and State:  Supporters of the NEA make the point that the agency's current budget of just under $100 million is a pittance in a $37 billion industry.  He's right.  So couldn't the wealthy leaders of that industry come up with enough money to replace the NEA budget?  Then they wouldn't have to worry about Jesse Helms's objections to whatever they fund; the First Amendment well protects privately produced art.

Art and the State:  The United States doesn't have a "National Endowment for Religion," but it does have a "National Endowment for the Arts."  This endowment is a government bureaucracy with an army of bureaucrats supported by taxpayers' money.

Defund The National Endowment for the Arts:  A decision by the NEA to fund any artist implies a hidden decision to tax everyone else.

One of the Issues Tearing Our Nation's Fabric: The NEA:  As if our tax dollars mean less than nothing, the NEA lavishes grants on artists and works whose only purpose is the debasement of life, the imagination, and the soul.

Not With My Money, You Don't!  I happen to love classical music, and wish that more school districts would introduce it to our kids who, instead, grow up hearing nothing but Rap, Hip Hop and other similar trash.  But I don't think people should be forced to support through taxation that which they are obviously unwilling to support at the box office.

Obama stimulates his friends' art groups.  Our editorial of today discusses the many regrettable and forgettable arts groups that are receiving small stimulus grants from the National Endowment for the Arts ... What is less commonly known is the connection that several of these groups have to President Obama's 2008 campaign.  Leaders of at least seven of the fortunate, newly stimulated and NEA-subsidized art groups also happened to serve on the Arts Policy Committee of the Obama campaign last year.  Among them is Obama's law school classmate, Nancy McCullough, whose California Lawyers for the Arts received a $50,000 grant.  CLA is an advocacy organization which takes government money and, among other things, uses it to urge people to write their elected officials and ask for more government money.

The National Endowment for the Arts  gave $10,000 to support conservation and restoration of the Beer Can House, a work by self-taught artist John Milkovisch.  The Houston landmark, consisting of a house and grounds decorated with methodically trimmed cans, will be used as an artist-in-residence project space.

[There's another great euphemism.  "Self-taught artist" is another way of saying, "A crazy man in our neighborhood has a huge pile of beer cans in his front yard."  By all means, let's be sure there's money available if it needs "restoration".]

David vs. Goliath:  We Must Slay the NEA.  Conduct a quick search on the Internet and you will find dozens of articles arguing against continued funding of the National Endowment [for] the Arts.

The Editor apologizes to the readers for the family-unfriendly nature of this article.
College Displaying Crucifix in Rectum Got Millions in Tax Dollars.  Federal taxpayers are subsidizing a college in New York whose art school is currently displaying works that include a drawing of a man with a crucifix coming out of his rectum, a drawing of a man with a rosary coming out of his rectum, and rosaries decorated with penises. … Some of the money has come in the form of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Bad, the Ugly, the NEA.  The National Endowment for the Arts was launched in 1965 supposedly to enhance appreciation of the arts, but a revealing indication of the trend in the opposite direction occurred in January 1968 when it was discovered that a painting had hung upside down for days in the White House itself.  Even when suspicions arose, it took another week of debate before its topsy-turvy status could be confirmed.

The NEA's potential as a propaganda tool:
The National Endowment for the Art of Persuasion?  A machine that the NEA helped to create could potentially be wielded by the state to push policy.  Through providing guidelines to the art community on what topics to discuss and providing them a step-by-step instruction to apply their art form to these issues, the "nation's largest annual funder of the arts" is attempting to direct imagery, songs, films, and literature that could create the illusion of a national consensus.  This is what Noam Chomsky calls "manufacturing consent."

More about President Obama's manipulation of the media.

Film Producer Accuses NEA of Enlisting Artists to Push Obama's Domestic Agenda.  The National Endowment for the Arts initiated a "call to action" earlier this month for members of the art community to push President Obama's recovery agency through works that focus on health care, energy and the environment — a troubling sign, one artist said.

Politicizing the Arts.  The NEA, along with the White House Office of Public Engagement and United We Serve (the administration's volunteerism initiative), had invited 75 members of the arts community to listen to a discussion supposedly about national service. ... [But apparently] the nation's top funder of the arts was abusing its position as custodian of taxpayer dollars to promote the Obama agenda.  This is unprecedented.

The NEA's partisan work for Obama.  When the Obama administration launched its United We Serve volunteerism program earlier this summer, it was all about building playgrounds, caring for wounded veterans and reading to homeless children.  Weeks later, the Obama White House, the National Endowment for the Arts and United We Serve have revealed the actual agenda — backing the administration's political priorities with coordinated propaganda, perhaps boosted by millions in stimulus cash.

Who Set Up Government 'Propaganda' Conference Call?  Another conference call has materialized, revealing a concerted effort by government to use the arts to address political issues. ... The meeting invitation went out to all "member local, state, and regional arts agencies, community-based arts organizations, and national partners of Americans for Arts."  Americans for Arts is a non-profit arts organization that has received substantial grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The NEA's new mission:  Obama's sermon to the children followed on the Obama administration's epistle to the arts community.  Yossi Sergant is the communications director of the National Endowment for the Arts.  On August 10 Sergant held a conference call with 75 members of the community funded by the NEA.  As Abby Wisse Schacter reported, Sergant's sounded "a lot like an effort to get recipients of government grants to lobby for the Obama agenda."

Editor's warning:  This article is full of disgusting details.
Art in America:  The half-dozen contestants, 20-something aspiring artists all, enter the famous Phillips de Pury art auction house.  Mr. de Pury himself ushers them into the special room where they are presented with a collection of paintings by Andres Serrano, the man who came to fame in 1989 with the ghastly painting, sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts, depicting a crucifix dunked in a jar of urine.  They are hugely impressed.

Somewhat related:
What price Ayers?  The Illinois Humanities Council is a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities; frequent subject Jim Leach presides as chairman of the NEH.  The NEH provides almost all the funding for the IHC, but the IHC is looking for more.  It has posted the Public Square's tenth anniversary online fundraising auction with 12 items up for bid.  The bidding opened yesterday and runs through December 19.  Item 2 is dinner for six with Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, the unrepentant terrorists and former friends of Barack Obama.

Dinner With Terrorists.  If you were running the Illinois Humanities Council and a famous terrorist offered to help in your fundraising drive, what would you do?  If you said, "slam down the phone" or something to that effect, it just shows how remote you are from the sensibilities of the Obama age.  Because, in fact, when Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers offered to auction "dinner for six" at their house, the IHC cheerfully accepted.



Amtrak

Hundreds of Passengers Rescued After Night on Frozen Amtrak Trains.  Hundreds of Amtrak passengers were rescued today [1/7/2014] after spending a bone-chilling cold night stranded on board three Amtrak trains that were crippled by snow and ice outside of Chicago.  More than 500 passengers who were affected by the delay are expected to arrive in Chicago this afternoon, likely on charter buses nearly 20 hours after the got stuck, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told ABC News.  The trains were halted late Monday [1/6/2014] near Mendota, about 90 miles west of Chicago.

Amtrak Food Costs are Off the Rails, Congressman Says.  Amtrak trains featuring gourmet menus in their café cars are losing more than $400 per passenger ticket, and a leading House Republican wants an investigation.  "With a $72 million food service loss in 2012, it's time for Congress to stem the financial bleeding from chef-inspired gourmet meals on Amtrak's money losing routes," said Rep. John Mica, former chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

Riding that Train.  In Washington there are two kinds of government expenditures.  Those that are too small to sweat and those that are too large to do anything about.  An example of something too large would be Medicare.  In the too small category, there is Amtrak, which gets a billion or so in subsidies every year.  In Washington, that is chump change. Not worth the trouble it would take to pry it from the clenched fingers of those who receive it.  Still, some Republicans in Congress are making the effort.  And, unsurprisingly, Democrats and Amtrak officials are resisting.

Amtrak snack bars lost $84.5 million last year; $833 million in 10 years.  Federal spending over the past 20 years has surged 71 percent faster than inflation, much of it on bloated and wasteful programs and services, including Vice President Joe Biden's favorite mode of travel:  Amtrak.

Amtrak to test trains at 165 mph along Northeast routes.  Starting tonight and ending next week, Amtrak plans to set speed records in tests along the Northeast Corridor — 165 mph. [...] To accommodate the faster trains, Amtrak is spending $450 million in federal funds to upgrade track, electrical power, signals and overhead wires.

Fraud, abuse found rampant at Amtrak.  One Amtrak employee spent much of his time in the office sending emails to women he met through a half-dozen online dating sites and claimed overtime pay for hours he spent officiating high school sporting events.  Another worker may have received more than $100,000 in bogus overtime, records show.  In what Amtrak's watchdog agency is calling a host of "serious abuses," an undercover surveillance operation during 2010 and last year has found multiple employees in the mid-Atlantic region's communications and signal department claiming overtime pay for hours they didn't work.

Amtrak offering gay passengers a 'ride with pride'.  Amtrak is joining the recent trend of companies taking sides in the fight over gay rights with a new marketing campaign dubbed "Ride With Pride."  The campaign features a website [...] and advertisements showing same-sex couples aboard trains.  It includes discounts to destinations like Martha's Vineyard in Cape Cod, Mass., which Amtrak says is "extremely gay-friendly," and a section called "out and about" that lists pride events.  Amtrak says the campaign is a sign of its commitment to diversity.

This article includes informative photo of the interior of an Amtrak car.
Amtrak Employees Likely Stealing $4-$7 Million in Food Each Year.  [Scroll down]  So how is the subsidized rail line managing to lose more than $800 million dollars in food and beverage sales in just ten years?  According to the report, Amtrak's own employees are likely stealing between $4-$7 million annually, or $40-$70 million over ten years.  Similarly, while the line sells soft drinks for $2, they actually cost the taxpayer $3.40.  Hamburgers sell for $9.50, but cost the taxpayer a whopping $16.  Therefore, even if Amtrak sold 100% of their inventory, it would still be impossible for them to turn a profit.

The Editor says...
I find it amusing that a hamburger costs $9.50 on an Amtrak train.  I wonder if they accept food stamps.

Amtrak Food Service Lost $834 Million in 10 Years, Mica Says.  Amtrak lost $84.5 million selling food and beverages last year and $833.8 million over 10 years, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica said, calling for a "better way" to run those operations.  It costs taxpayers $3.40 for each can of soda the U.S. passenger railroad sells on its trains, and Amtrak charges $2.00, the Florida Republican said at a hearing today [8/2/2012].  Taxpayers subsidized $68,477 in losses in 2011 for each Amtrak food-service employee, he said, citing Government Accountability Office estimates.

Amtrak lost $800M on cheeseburgers and soda.  Taxpayers lost $833 million over the last decade on the food and beverages supplied by Amtrak, which managed to spend $1.70 for every dollar that [it] received in revenue.  "Over the last ten years, these losses have amounted to a staggering $833.8 million," said Rep.John Mica, R-Fla., in a statement previewing a House hearing today.  "It costs passengers $9.50 to buy a cheeseburger on Amtrak, but the cost to taxpayers is $16.15.  Riders pay $2.00 for a Pepsi, but each of these sodas costs the U.S. Treasury $3.40."

Amtrak Records $834 Million Loss on Food Sales Over Past Decade.  Congress has required Amtrak's food and beverage services to be revenue positive since 1981.  Since 1999, Amtrak has contracted out the management and logistics of the division, but sales remain within the domain of Amtrak employees.  The sale of food and beverages aboard Amtrak trains has not broken even — once.  The losses revealed Thursday [8/2/2012] are no surprise, according to previous reports from both Amtrak's inspector general and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Amtrak Shifts Strategy From Begging for Money to Thinking Big.  Amtrak, the corporation created by Congress when private industry abandoned U.S. passenger rail, is trying to overcome its chronic lack of money with a new strategy — thinking far beyond its means.  In the past three weeks, Amtrak proposed a renovation of Washington's Union Station that would cost at least $6.5 billion and published a $151 billion, three-decade plan for bringing 220-miles-per-hour service to its busiest route, between Washington and Boston.  It's working toward a future with bullet trains, though Congress killed President Barack Obama's high-speed rail funding proposal last year and Republicans in the House of Representatives want to do it again this year.

Amtrak's high-speed Northeast Corridor plan at $151 billion.  Amtrak's updated plan for high-speed train travel on the East Coast envisions 37-minute trips between Philadelphia and New York, after a $151 billion redevelopment of the entire Northeast Corridor.  Faster service would be phased in gradually, as Amtrak improves existing tracks, signals, bridges, and power lines and then builds a separate high-speed corridor between Washington and Boston to accommodate trains traveling at 220 m.p.h.

Amtrak: 'Fraud, waste, and abuse are long-standing problems'.  The government-subsidized transportation service Amtrak has consumed $40 billion in subsidies over the last four decades, according to Tad DeHaven of the Cato Institute.  He writes:  "The system has never earned a profit and most of its routes lose money.  Amtrak's on-time record is very poor, and the system as a whole only accounts for 0.1 percent of America's passenger travel."  Besides sucking more and more money from the U.S. government, there are many documented cases of fraud.

Privatizing Amtrak:  An independent analysis found that the average operational loss per passenger on all 44 of Amtrak's routes was $32 in 2008. ... The Sunset Limited, which runs from New Orleans to Los Angeles, lost an astounding $462 per passenger.  All of Amtrak's long-distance routes lose money.  According to the Government Accountability Office, these routes account for 15 percent of riders but 80 percent of financial losses.

Senate infrastructure bill would fund airports, highways, Amtrak.  Senate Democrats on Wednesday [11/2/2011] will begin considering a $60 billion infrastructure bill that would provide billions of dollars in new funding for airports, highways and Amtrak and other rail systems, in addition to funding a new $10 billion infrastructure bank.

The Editor says...
Amtrak is pork, not infrastructure.  If Amtrak goes out of business, the regular users will make other arrangements and the rest of the country will hardly notice.

Trains In Vain.  This week, Amtrak marks its 40th anniversary, which means that for decades it's wasted tens of billions of tax dollars.  Naturally, Washington wants to reward this with billions more under the guise of "high-speed" rail.  To say that Amtrak is a failed business is to be unkind to failure.

Top 10 Spending Cuts Thwarted by Democrats:  [#3]  Amtrak:  When Amtrak started in 1971, officials predicted it would break even by 1974.  Forty years and tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies later, the train service is still bleeding red ink.  Republicans want to cut $224 million from its budget, which could be accomplished by axing highly subsidized routes outside the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak CEO ditches broken train to travel by car.  Today's the big day for Amtrak's Wilmington train station.  It is being renamed in honor of Vice President and former Delaware Senator Joe Biden following major renovations made possible with stimulus funds.  One problem:  the CEO of Amtrak got stuck on the train.  ABC News Deputy Political Director & Political Reporter Michael Falcone tweeted at approximately 10 a.m. that the Acela train he was riding had been "delayed" in Baltimore and that he was sitting next to Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman.

High-speed rail is a fast track to government waste.  Passenger rail service inspires wishful thinking.  In 1970, when Congress created Amtrak to preserve intercity passenger trains, the idea was that the system would become profitable and self-sustaining after an initial infusion of federal money.  This never happened.  Amtrak has swallowed $35 billion in subsidies, and they're increasing by more than $1 billion annually.  Despite the subsidies, Amtrak does not provide low-cost transportation.

The Quest for the Holy Rail.  Amtrak carried 29.1 million passengers last year.  Sounds impressive?  That's only one quarter the amount of automobile commutes in a single day. ... The liberal fixation on rail transit, a 19th century technology ill-suited to 21st century mobility needs, prompts a lot of questions.  The proposed high-speed rail system will be a fiscal sink-hole forever.  Why is it that liberals only apply "sustainability" to how us lowly private citizens use resources, but never to government spending?

Who's Policing Amtrak Joe Biden's Rail Boondoggles?  At Philadelphia's 30th Street Station on Tuesday [2/8/2011], lifelong government rail promoter Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a $53 billion high-speed train initiative and half-joked:  "I'm like the ombudsman for Amtrak."  As with most gaffetastic Biden-isms, the remark should prompt more heartburn than hilarity.  Just who exactly is looking out for taxpayers when it comes to federal rail spending?

Rails Won't Save America.  Amtrak spent more than $3 billion carrying people about 5.4 billion passenger miles in 2006.  This works out to 56 cents per passenger mile, more than four times the cost of flying.  Also in 2006, America's urban transit agencies spent about $42 billion on 49.5 billion passenger miles, for a cost of 85 cents per passenger mile, or more than three times the cost of driving.

Amtrak E-Mail Misuse Alleged in IG Scandal.  Amtrak's independent investigative officer is asking the U.S. Postal Service to look into whether Amtrak officials misused the e-mail system by searching for communiqués between his office and Congress about the unexpected retirement of Amtrak's longtime inspector general, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

Going Off The Rails With Amtrak.  In June 2009, the inspector general of Amtrak, Fred Weiderhold, completed a report that concluded the "independence and effectiveness" of the inspector general's office was being "substantially impaired" by Amtrak management, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.  Coincidentally, Amtrak management chose that moment to conclude Weiderhold's career.  He was paid over $300,000 to sign what amounted to a non-disclosure agreement on his way out. ... Amtrak has a long history of doing things they would happily pay three hundred grand of your money to keep quiet.

Commerce Committee defends Amtrak executives.  The Senate Commerce Committee is defending two top Amtrak executives whom Republicans want investigated for failing to tell Congress about the removal of longtime Amtrak Inspector General Fred Weiderhold.  Committee staff in a report this week also rejected calls by three Republican leaders in the House and Senate calling for the removal of Amtrak Chairman Thomas Carper and General Counsel Eleanor Acheson.

High-speed rail will take taxpayers for a ride.  My wife and I are planning a weekend in Philadelphia with our three kids.  I thought it would be fun to take everybody up from D.C. to Philly on the Acela Express, Amtrak's fastest passenger train.  It's only 95 minutes from downtown to downtown.  Then I checked the ticket prices:  $1,320.00 round-trip for the five of us.  Even the slow Northeast Regional would cost hundreds of dollars.  Driving takes an hour longer than the Acela but costs about $115.00 round-trip for gas, tolls and parking.  We're driving.

Amtrak 'misled' Congress on finances.  When Amtrak assured Congress it was on a "glide path" to free itself of federal subsidies early last decade, a handful of top executives secretly had reason to know better.  In fact, the rail service was on the verge of bankruptcy.  But Amtrak's public assurances were based on far more than overly rosy financial projections.

GM, Amtrak and an Increasingly Fascist America.  The promise that [the nationalization of GM] is temporary and will eventually be profitable is supposed to ease the American people into accepting this arrangement, but it is of little comfort to those who remember similar promises when the American taxpayers bought Amtrak.  After three years, government was supposed to be out of the passenger rail business.  40 years and billions of dollars later,the government is still operating Amtrak at a loss, despite the fact that they have created a monopoly by making it illegal to compete with Amtrak.

Excellent:
Replacing Amtrak.  Amtrak is a colossal failure.  I was one of the people who worked to create Amtrak in 1970-71.  The railroad today bears little resemblance to what was promised.  Federal subsidies to Amtrak now exceed $30.7 billion (and states have provided several billion more), yet Amtrak remains in dire straits and has yet to launch major reforms. … The more Amtrak "flourishes," the greater taxpayers suffer.  That's because Amtrak is an "enterprise" where the more customers it serves, the more money it loses.

Obama administration tries railroading General Motors.  The Obama administration is dropping a cool $8 billion on improving long-distance passenger rail service in the United States.  President Barack Obama's goal is to get back what America had decades ago — a large, reliable passenger rail network that kept people off overburdened highways.  It would be a propitious time for Obama to consider why America went from having the greatest railroad service in the world to having sorry old Amtrak creaking along, still managing to lose money despite a $1.5 billion annual subsidy.

Amtrak ticketing system outage:  On Saturday morning, 25 Aug 2007, the nationwide Amtrak ticketing system failed.  It wasn't restored to service until early Sunday afternoon.  During that time, passengers couldn't buy tickets except (sometimes) at a ticket window, query or change reservations, or retrieve previously-purchased tickets.  Some other web functions were also unavailable.

Amtrak to Reevaluate Long-Distance Routes.  Amtrak's chairman on Thursday [3/16/2006] said the railroad will scrutinize all of its long-distance routes this year for efficiency and could scrap, reconfigure or add lines as it tries to prove to Congress and the Bush administration that the rail system is reforming itself. … In its 34-year history, Amtrak has never turned a profit.  It has debt of more than $3.5 billion and its operating loss for 2005 topped $550 million.

Amtrak Should Go to the Movies.  My favorite statistic regarding this ultimate boondoggle is that the per-passenger-mile government subsidy is so high that it would be actually cheaper for the government to give people free plane tickets from New York to California than to underwrite their train ticket.

Amtrak:  On Time for Yesterday.  On-time performance has long been Amtrak's principal strength … not the trains, but the financial crises.  Little seems more predictable than Amtrak's periodic budget crises and calls for more money from those naïve enough to believe that nostalgia should be publicly financed, like defense or welfare.  The latest chapter is a new U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General report indicating Amtrak is experiencing unsustainably large losses and is deferring needed investment.

Springtime for Amtrak and America.  Despite continued economic expansion and the recovery of the travel market from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Amtrak's ridership increased by only 1.3 percent in 2005 compared to the 3.6 percent gain recorded by the domestic airlines.  Even among the one-half of one percent of America's intercity travelers who use Amtrak, support seems to be shrinking.

Is Amtrak Cooking the Books on Food and Beverage Services?  With the close scrutiny that it has received in recent months, Amtrak should be working overtime to satisfy the demands of its congressional overseers.  (Well, really it should be working overtime to satisfy its customers but, in a politically-driven enterprise like Amtrak, customers come, at best, third, behind legislators and labor unions.)  One wouldn't think that Congress would be satisfied by being misled by senior Amtrak management, right?

Amtrak's Acelas:  Amtrak and the DOT insisted on a custom, untested design based on a design concept that was out of step with every other high speed train built in modern times.  Had Amtrak simply purchased a modified form of the X-2000 tested in the early 90's, we wouldn't have this fiasco today.

Amtrak is Anti-American.  The irony is that, while the United States preaches free-market economics, it runs a retrograde socialist-style rail system while the rest of the world is privatizing.

Juvenile Logic:  Senators Torticelli and Schumer on Amtrak.  In addition to paying for the nation's roads, highway users pay a nearly 20 percent premium on their gasoline taxes to subsidize mass transit, which carries barely one percent of the nation' travel.

Amtrak:  Don't Let Colorado's Back Door Hit You In the Caboose.  Amtrak, you're just too much.  You've operated at taxpayer expense to the tune of $44 billion since 1971, a black hole for federal funding.

How To Run A Railroad (Or At Least Amtrak):  Many wasteful government programs contribute to the growing federal deficit, but the king of them all is Amtrak.  The national passenger rail service incurs two dollars in costs for every dollar of tickets sold.

Senate Scheduled to Vote for More Wasteful Transportation Spending.  Following a successful vote in favor of Rep. Don Young's $320 million "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska, Sen. Trent Lott has shown that he too can waste taxpayers' money on underutilized transportation projects. … As rewritten for the amendment, Senator Lott's proposal would spend $12.2 billion over the next six years on Amtrak.  At a time of fiscal crisis, boosting federal subsidies to money-losing and mediocre Amtrak makes no sense.

Amtrak — The Railroad to Nowhere.  Nearly five years ago, as Amtrak officials were hailing their new Acela train as "a giant step forward" for America and "the kind of rail system we've all been dreaming about for decades," a former Amtrak official named Joseph Vranich offered another perspective.  "I say without equivocation," he told The Hartford Courant, "that the Acela program is turning into the world's worst high-speed program." … Mr. Vranich has moved beyond all that and reached acceptance.  He now sees that the dream of decent Amtrak service is dead.

Amtrak:  The Federal Government's Own Corporate Financial Scandal.  Amtrak has for years used creative accounting to disguise its financial problems, hiding operating expenses as capital costs, as well as misled the public about its effectiveness and performance.  If honest accounting practices had been enforced with Amtrak, it would have gone bankrupt years ago.

Democrats vow fight to protect Amtrak funding.  The leading House Democrat on transportation issues, Minnesota Rep. Jim Oberstar, on Tuesday [2/8/2005] predicted a "test of wills" over the Bush administration's proposal to eliminate subsidies to Amtrak.

Amtrak takes us for a ride:  The scene is a staple of silent movies and TV cartoons -- a damsel tied to the railroad tracks as a train comes hurtling around the bend, while the hero races to free her in time.  But this time, there's a twist:  It's the people running the trains who have bound the victim.

Don't Give a Penny to Amtrak:  Amtrak seized on the Sept. 11 calamities as a chance to lobby Congress for $3.2 billion in "disaster" aid -- even though it suffered no disaster.

Taxing Taxpayers on a Train Ride.  Congress deserves much of the blame for Amtrak's losses.  Under the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997, the same legislation that created the Amtrak Reform Council, Amtrak was required to submit a plan for its own liquidation if it could not achieve operational self-sufficiency by Dec. 2, 2001.  But, after it was clear that Amtrak could not meet this deadline, Congress got cold feet and (in an unpublicized amendment to a defense-spending bill) forbade Amtrak from preparing a liquidation plan.

New Amtrak boondoggle may outdo all othersLegislation now before Congress proposes to dedicate as much as $16 billion of future budget surpluses to prop up Amtrak, America's federally chartered and subsidized passenger rail service.  Members of Congress should view this new proposal with skepticism given Amtrak's record-breaking losses, stagnant ridership, and persistent failure to implement high-speed rail service, promised for 1997 and now delayed for a third straight year.

Congress Should Link Amtrak's Generous Subsidy to Improved Performance.  Amtrak has asked Congress for $1.680 billion for FY 2008 — a significant increase over the FY 2007 subsidy — but unlike the previous year's request, this year's makes no particular commitment to implement major reforms.  Indeed, at a time when it should be attempting to follow the airlines' successful lead and seek reductions in the wages of Amtrak's overpaid workforce ($54,000 per year plus tips for snack car workers), Amtrak's new president announced early this year that he will "Strive to achieve labor agreements providing reasonable wage increases."

This train's not bound to break even.

Silent Rage:  "This is the quiet car!"  The voice belonged to a woman glaring at my kids, ages 5 and 2, standing (quietly, I should add) next to the door.  I ignored her and focused on snagging an empty spot on a packed Amtrak train — a miracle the day before Christmas — for our nuclear family with big luggage.  (Why Amtrak can't figure out how to assign seats on its "reserved trains" like every major European rail company will have to be left for another day.)  In any case, we weren't about to give ours up.  The pitch went up a notch:  "This is the QUIET car!!"  "So be quiet."  Ah, my wife to the rescue.

The feds got away with it at the airports, and now the police state extends to the train station.
New security measures for Amtrak:  Amtrak passengers will have to submit to random screening of carry-on bags in a major new security push that will include officers with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling platforms and trains, the railroad planned to announce Tuesday [2/19/2008].  The initiative is a significant shift for Amtrak.  Unlike the airlines, it has had relatively little visible increase in security since the 2001 terrorist attacks, a distinction that has enabled it to attract passengers eager to avoid airport hassles.

Taxing Taxpayers on a Train Ride.  Congress deserves much of the blame for Amtrak's losses.  Under the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997, the same legislation that created the Amtrak Reform Council, Amtrak was required to submit a plan for its own liquidation if it could not achieve operational self-sufficiency by Dec. 2, 2001.  But, after it was clear that Amtrak could not meet this deadline, Congress got cold feet and (in an unpublicized amendment to a defense-spending bill) forbade Amtrak from preparing a liquidation plan.

The feds got away with it at the airports, and now the police state extends to the train station.
New security measures for Amtrak:  Amtrak passengers will have to submit to random screening of carry-on bags in a major new security push that will include officers with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling platforms and trains, the railroad planned to announce Tuesday [2/19/2008].  The initiative is a significant shift for Amtrak.  Unlike the airlines, it has had relatively little visible increase in security since the 2001 terrorist attacks, a distinction that has enabled it to attract passengers eager to avoid airport hassles.

Amtraking Automakers:  The odds that the federal government will ever get its hooks out of Chrysler or General Motors are slim to none, regardless what President Obama says.  Why?  In one word, Amtrak. ... Amtrak may just be the future business model — if you can call it that — for Chrysler and General Motors.  Amtrak is highly subsidized, underutilized and poorly performing.  Since its inception thirty-nine years ago, Amtrak has been a losing proposition.

Obama's Health Care Promises Ring Hollow.  Past government programs designed to be self-sustaining in the long run simply haven't lived up to lawmakers' expectations. ... It was originally believed Amtrak would be self-sustaining within 3 to 5 years.  The program lost almost a billion dollars last year and almost $30 billion dollars since its creation in 1970.

Who Railroaded the Amtrak Inspector General?  Amtrak bosses have effectively gagged their budgetary watchdogs from communicating with Congress without pre-approval; required that all Amtrak documents be "pre-screened" (and in some cases redacted) before being turned over to the inspector general's office; and taken control of the inspector general's $5 million portion of federal stimulus spending.  Moreover, the report revealed, Amtrak regularly retained outside law firms shielded from IG reach.  In another case, Amtrak's Law Department appeared to meddle in an inspector general investigation of an outside financial adviser suspected of inflating fees.

Amtrak accused of hindering stimulus oversight.  Amtrak managers have improperly interfered with oversight of the railroad's $1.3 billion in economic stimulus funding, according to an independent report by a former federal prosecutor.  The report commissioned by Amtrak's former inspector general says the railroad's lawyers and financial managers interfered with the internal watchdog's ability to get stimulus-related documents and the $5 million Congress appropriated for stimulus oversight.

GM, Amtrak and an Increasingly Fascist America.  Public officials are now involving themselves in tactical business decisions such as where GM's headquarters should move and what kind of cars it will build.  The promise that this is temporary and will eventually be profitable is supposed to ease the American people into accepting this arrangement, but it is of little comfort to those who remember similar promises when the American taxpayers bought Amtrak.  After three years, government was supposed to be out of the passenger rail business.  40 years and billions of dollars later, the government is still operating Amtrak at a loss, despite the fact that they have created a monopoly by making it illegal to compete with Amtrak.  Imagine what they can now do to what is left of the great American auto industry!

Amtrak conducts major East Coast security search.  Amtrak, with other transit agencies and dozens of law enforcement groups, conducted a broad security crackdown Wednesday [9/9/2009] that included random bag searches at train stations along the East Coast including Union Station.  Amtrak conducted the major show of force at train stations in Virginia, Maryland and as far as Vermont just two days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

On the other hand...
Senate votes to allow guns on Amtrak.  The Senate voted today [9/16/2009] to permit passengers on the Amtrak passenger railroad to transport handguns in their checked baggage.

Pew Analysis Shows Amtrak Lost $32 Per Passenger in 2008.  The average loss per passenger on Amtrak's 44 nationwide routes was more than $32 in FY2008, according to analysis released today by Pew's Subsidyscope project.  This is four times higher than the loss of $8 per passenger, which was calculated using Amtrak's own figures.  Further, 41 of Amtrak's 44 lines lost money, between $5 and $462 per passenger depending on the route.  Amtrak received $1.3 billion in direct payments from the federal government in FY2008.

Study:  Amtrak loss comes to $32 per passenger.  U.S. taxpayers spent about $32 subsidizing the cost of the typical Amtrak passenger in 2008, about four times the rail operator's estimate, according to a private study.

Amtrak loses $32 per rider.  This runaway train is running away with taxpayer dollars!  Amtrak loses an average of $32 for every passenger who boards one of its trains, and 41 of its 44 routes lost money in 2008, according to a scathing watchdog report released yesterday [10/27/2009].

Budget Buster Express.  Members of Congress must feel a bit shortchanged by the amount of playtime they received during childhood.  Their ongoing fascination with one of the world's most expensive model-train sets, Amtrak, otherwise defies explanation.  Politicians continue to treat the heavily subsidized operation more like a prized toy than a solid business operation.  The time has come to stop shoveling money into this runaway choo-choo.

Amtrak and the Railroads.  Amtrak and its lobbyists at the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) recently invited us to commemorate the third annual National Train Day on May 8.  Supposedly celebrating "America's love for trains," the day could not boast a more ironic host than the railroad nobody rides.  Worse, Amtrak's sponsorship was as shameless as Dracula's funding a fashion show concentrating on décolletage:  The government that owns Amtrak has sabotaged, subsidized, and sucked the life from American railroads since the industry's inception.

Amtrak's first-ever ad campaign targeted at LGBT demographic.  For the first time, Amtrak is courting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered travelers with a targeted $250,000 multimedia advertising blitz this summer.  The government-owned rail company is looking to the LGBT community for business with the hopes that its propensity for travel will translate well into rail transportation.

Woman feels 'disrespected' after being kicked off train.  A woman who got pulled of an Amtrak train by police after passengers complained she was speaking too loudly on a cell phone said she felt "disrespected" by the entire incident.  Lakeysha Beard of Tigard was charged with disorderly conduct after police said she got into a "verbal altercation" with train passengers on Sunday [5/15/2011].  Passengers complained she refused to put down her cell phone and conductors had to stop the train in Salem, where police got involved.

More information on mass transit issues can be found here.



The V-22 Osprey

V-22 Osprey
I've seen and heard the Osprey fly.  It's slow, it's very loud, it looks clumsy and sluggish, and it has already killed at least 30 people, none of whom was an enemy soldier.  It is the worst possible aircraft to send into a war, but somehow the Osprey program cannot be scrapped.

The Osprey is particularly useless in wartime conditions because it is so loud.  Everybody in town can hear it coming long before it arrives.  And apparently it is so completely unstable that it has to land very gently.  Each Osprey costs $100 million*, and it wouldn't surprise me to hear someday that a V-22 was brought down by a guy with a slingshot or a bow and arrow.

The latest:
Air Force Engineer Takes on General Over Controversial Warplane Crash.  In 2010, an Air Force CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor — a hybrid warplane that takes off like a helicopter and cruises like an airplane — crashed in southern Afghanistan, killing four people on board.  When Brig. Gen. Don Harvel, the lead accident investigator, concluded that engine failure might have been to blame for the Osprey's loss, he was overruled by a superior officer who Harvel says was eager to protect the military's $36 billion investment in the controversial V-22.

Ospreys to stay grounded for now.  The United States will suspend all flight operations by MV-22 Ospreys in Japan until Tokyo confirms the tilt-rotor aircraft's safety, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.

In Japan, the arrival of an American-made Osprey fleet stirs anti-base sentiment.  At the heart of local opposition are nagging doubts about the Osprey's safety record.  The aircraft, which can take off and land like a helicopter, has seen extensive service in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They carry bigger payloads than the CH-46.  But they have also been involved in recent accidents in Morocco and Florida.  At least one expert has questioned the plane's safety, particularly when flown in formation at slow speeds.  "There are lots of opportunities for the pilot to make a little mistake.  And, if you make a mistake in a V-22, you crash," Rex Rivolo, a former chief analyst at the US Institute for Defense Anlayses, said in an interview with Kyodo News.

Osprey is flawed, say experts.  The U.S. military vertical takeoff and landing aircraft MV-22, widely known as the "Osprey," has some flaws, U.S. experts have pointed out.  The Institute for Defense Analyses of the U.S. Department of Defense compiled an eight-page report in November 2003, pointing to risks involving the controversial military transportation plane.  Dr. Arthur Rex Rivolo, 68, then an analyst of the aircraft who wrote the report, has told the Mainichi Shimbun that the official in charge at the Pentagon initially refused to even accept the report.

Special Ops Commander Sacked After Tiltrotor Crash.  The head of an Air Force Osprey tiltrotor squadron has reportedly been fired following the near-fatal crash of one of the unit's aircraft on June 13.

Crash-Prone Hybrid Copter's New Mission: Hauling the President's Peeps.  It crashed four times in development, killing 30 crew and passengers.  An unexplained crash during a combat mission in Afghanistan last year claimed four more lives.  Despite its lethal reputation, in April the controversial V-22 Osprey tiltrotor got a high-profile new assignment:  hauling cargo for the president's entourage, starting in 2013.  Now that mission has expanded, and the Osprey will haul the entourage itself.

US loses first Osprey in Afghanistan, 4 dead.  A U.S. Air Force Osprey went down in southeastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Friday [4/9/2010], killing three service members and one civilian contractor in the first crash of the costly tilt-rotor aircraft in a combat zone.

Controversial 'Osprey' makes combat debut in Afghanistan.  The Osprey suffered through a star-crossed development period that took more than 20 years and included several fatal crashes and huge cost overruns.  Then, after production models entered service, on its only other combat deployment so far, in Iraq's Anbar Province in 2007 through 2009, the complicated aircraft was panned by the Government Accounting Office and critics in Congress because of various maintenance problems and questions about its performance.

V-22 Osprey combo-copter hits fresh tech snags.  The famous V-22 "Osprey" tiltrotor plane-chopper combo is back in the news again for unhappy reasons, mere months after it had seemed to be finally putting its troubles behind it.  A US project official has revealed to the press that the Osprey's engines are currently wearing out much too fast, to the point where it may need to be fitted with different powerplants.

US Marines:  Osprey tiltrotor doing OK in Iraq.  The troubled, revolutionary V-22 "Osprey" tiltrotor aircraft — which takes off and lands like a helicopter, but flies from place to place like a fixed-wing plane — appears to have finally left most of its development snags behind it.  The first operational Osprey squadron has been operating in Iraq for three months, initially under a news blackout.  But there have been no mishaps so far, and chuffed military bigwigs have begun to allow reports out.

[To put it another way, the military manipulates the hapless news media, releasing information only when it makes the generals and their pet projects look good.]

Osprey is Iraq-bound.  After years of delays and setbacks, the Marine Corps said yesterday [4/13/2007] that it plans to deploy its unconventional V-22 Osprey aircraft in military operations in Anbar province in Iraq in September.

War of the porkers:  The Marine brass just wants their beloved Osprey hybrid helicopter, which has, in the past decade, done three things well:  crashed, burned and caused its top guys to look like a bunch of liars.

If approved, Osprey program could take years to fixThe fourth fatal crash of the tilt-rotor aircraft in December, 2000, brought to 30 the number of people killed while flying the plane over two decades.

Bell Helicopter replaces CEO.  A news release and e-mail to employees from Textron chairman Lewis Campbell hinted at unhappiness with aspects of Bell's performance. … Doubts about the safety and reliability of the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, a joint venture of Bell and Boeing, have swirled for several years.  The V-22 is built in Amarillo.

Study finds design flaws in V-22 Osprey.  Hoping to re-energize congressional opposition to the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey, critics of the controversial tilt-rotor aircraft released a study Thursday warning that the aircraft is plagued by inherent design flaws and will endanger U.S. lives when it goes into combat later this year.

V-22 Osprey:  Deathtrap or deliverer?  Months away from deployment, the debate surrounding the V-22 Osprey's safety, efficacy and reliability rages on.  It's either the future of military rotorcraft or a $69 million deathtrap, and 23,000 flight hours last year alone have done little to narrow the gap between those two schools of thought.

V-22 Testing Turns up Trouble.  The V-22 Osprey, which may deploy to Iraq with Marines this year, suffered problems that hurt its mission effectiveness when the Air Force tested it for a month in the New Mexico desert, according to a new report from the Pentagon's top weapons tester. ... "Frequent part and system failures, limited supply support, and high false alarm rates in the built-in diagnostic systems caused frequent flight delays and an excessive maintenance workload," the report says.

V-22 Flaws Called 'Lethal'.  Hoping to re-energize congressional opposition to the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey, critics of the controversial tilt-rotor aircraft released a study Thursday warning that the aircraft is plagued by inherent design flaws and will endanger U.S. lives when it goes into combat this year.

V-22 Engine Fire Caused Major Damage.  Officials have determined that an engine fire in a Marine Corps V-22 Osprey probably caused more than $1 million in damage, putting the incident in the most serious category of mishaps.

November V-22 Incident Under Review.  As the investigation into the V-22 Osprey program's recent mishap on the ground in North Carolina continues, officials are reviewing an unexplained, previously unpublicized incident in November 2005 that also involved an uncommanded engine acceleration, according to Osprey program manager Marine Corps Col. Bill Taylor.

In spite of everything...
Defense OKs plans to buy 202 V-22s.  The Defense Department approved Navy and Air Force plans to buy as many as 36 Bell Helicopter-Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft each year through 2013, according to internal budget documents. ... The overall V-22 program is to cost $50 billion over its anticipated 20-year life.

Osprey Down: Marines Shift Story on Controversial Warplane's Safety Record.  On March 27, 2006, at a Marine Corps air base in New River, North Carolina, an MV-22 assigned to Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204 experienced an unplanned surge in engine power as the three-man crew was preparing for a flight.  "That caused the aircraft to inadvertently lift off the deck approximately 30 feet," Marine spokesman Maj. Shawn Haney explained.  "It came back down ... there was major damage sustained to the right wing and the right engine."

Controversial Marine Tiltrotor Fights Its First Gun Battle.  It was June 12 in the Sangin Valley in southern Afghanistan.  U.S. Marines had been fighting the Taliban all day and had suffered heavy casualties, including two killed.  Several resupply convoys had been turned back by enemy attack.  The Marines were running low on food, water, ammunition and medical supplies.  That's when the Marines' V-22 Osprey tiltrotor swooped in, carrying life-saving supplies — and machine gun fire.

Fatal helicopter crash won't change Navy's plans to purchase more.  The Navy is moving forward with its plan to purchase more V-22 Osprey aircraft despite last week's deadly crash in Africa.  "The value of the [Osprey] requirement ... and the multiyear is a clear reason to go ahead with the plan," Marine Corps Col. Greg Masiello, V-22 joint program manager, said on Monday.  Masiello said the value of the Osprey to the service has not changed despite the accident Wednesday [4/11/2012] in Morocco that killed two U.S. troops and left another hospitalized.


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Updated January 8, 2014.

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