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Pork Barrel Tech Projects On The Rise 217

Posted by Zonk
from the better-than-a-bridge-i-guess dept.
An anonymous reader writes "News.com has a large article up exploring the increase in 'pork barrel'-style technology projects floating through government spending bills. The water-free urinals discussed on Slashdot last year are one such project, as is a 'Virtual Reality Spray Paint Simulator'." From the article: "Earmarks for favored recipients--known colloquially as pork--have become easier than ever for politicians to secure because of the rapid growth in homeland security and military spending, especially if they can find some plausible technological veneer. Exact figures are difficult to obtain, mostly because spending bills tend to be intentionally obfuscated and specifics are usually absent from legislative text. Government watchdogs, however, say earmarks ostensibly related to technology are clearly on the rise."
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Pork Barrel Tech Projects On The Rise

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  • by Kelson (129150) * on Thursday March 30, 2006 @04:57PM (#15029502) Homepage Journal
    Clearly, we need to get some Republicans into power so they can cut down on all this extraneous spending and balance the budget.

    Oh, wait...
    • by TommyBlack (899306) <(moc.ekalbmoht) (ta) (retsambew)> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:09PM (#15029627) Homepage
      Bah. Big government is the new libertarianism. Having a big, stupid government that can't do anything right is far superior to having a sleek, functioning government that can oppress its people at a moment's notice.
      • Bah. Big government is the new libertarianism. Having a big, stupid government that can't do anything right is far superior to having a sleek, functioning government that can oppress its people at a moment's notice.

        Except when the big, stupid government is a front for the sleek, functioning oligarchy really runs the show from behind the scenes.

        You know, kinda like here in the U.S.

      • However, the absolutely worst thing is a big, stupid government that can oppress its people at a moment's notice.
    • > Clearly, we need to get some Republicans into power so they can cut down on all this extraneous spending and balance the budget.

      While we're on the subject - there are lots of publicly-traded small defense contractors out there, so making money has been pretty easy in this environment, even if you're not politically-connected.

      What publicly-traded companies/industries stand to make easy money when the Democrats get their turn at the pork barrel in late-06, and particularly if they have the House/Sen

    • "...rapid growth in homeland security and military spending..."

      Isn't this what helped collapse the old USSR?
      • Isn't this what helped collapse the old USSR?

        In part, yes. In full, it was trying to spend more on defense and the military than they could afford, trying to keep up with SDI, aka Star Wars. That, of course, was the whole point of SDI: competing with the USSR on our turf (ability to spend money) rather than on theirs.

    • by demachina (71715) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:53PM (#15029973)
      Humorous but the underlying sinister truth is that the Republican party of today isn't a conservative one or one favoring small government. There have always been Republican's who espouse and advocate those principals and settled in to the Republican party only because they only had two choices and the Democrats were an even worse choice than Republicans.

      The truth is the only parties which advocate fiscal conservativism tends to be the ones which have no control of the purse strings.

      In practice modern Republican's do still want to slash spending on Democratically backed Socialist programs like Welfare, Medicare, Medicaid or anything they perceive as transferring wealth from affluent tax payers to the poor. But at the same time they are just as eager to redirect extravegent sums in to Defense and espionage something which was true of both Bush and Reagan who are the two biggest creators of national debt in U.S. history. And also in to gigantic give aways to corprate benefactors which they've done in a huge way in Medicare D, corporate farm subsidies, their "energy" bill, and massive defense contracting and Iraqi reconstruction bonanzas.

      Massive tax cuts coupled with massive defense spending is the Republican strategy for bankrupting the U.S. government and when it heads to bankruptcy because of their policies they will solve the problem by dismantling entitlements and blame it all on them (though Social Security surpluses for example have been helping fund rampant spending elsewhere).

      Basically the two political choices Americans have today are:

      A. A Democratic party which is Socialist leaning and which will squander big sums on social programs and pork if in power

      B. A Republican party that is Fascist leaning and which will squander vast sums on military spending and filling the pockets of the big corporations and wealthy party members who back them and reap windfalls out of the pockets of taxpayers.

      There simply is NO viable political option today which advocates slashing the size of the American government and its out of control spending. Its not clear you could stop rampant growth of the U.S. government at this point without economic upheaval. The American economy has become massively dependent on government spending and it keeps the economy afloat at a time when the U.S. economy manufactures or exports next to nothing. Health care spending, and defense spending, much of it paid for with money borrowed from foreigners keeps America's economy.

      At this point your two options are to vote Democrat and Socialist or vote Republican and Fascist. There is no libertarian or fiscal conservative option.
      • Whether it's viable or not, most people still do have the option of voting for the Libertarian Party. [lp.org] Even if you don't agree with them 100%, you can still vote that way. Also, they don't need to win, they only need 5-10% to make the other major parties take notice and start moving the debate from how quickly to grow the government to whether the government should grow or shrink.
        • by demachina (71715) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @06:28PM (#15030242)
          Well the Libertarian's aren't even close to garnering enough votes to make difference so no they aren't a viable option.

          A case could be made that their form of government would be as bad if not worse than what we have. The fatal flaw in Libertarianism is it would let loose the wolves of Capitalism and they would devour the nation and most of its people in a sea of unchecked greed. My image of Libertarianism in practice would the robber baron's of the late 1800's who manipulated markets, ran monopolies and who accumulated vast wealth unchecked except by feuds with each other. For example railroad tycoons who devastated farmers by charging just enough to ship their goods to market that the farmers made nothing or lost money for their hard work.

          My guess is Libertarianism would lead to massive imbalances in wealth distribution, a small number of very wealthy people and a lot of people living in poverty. Of course the current Fascist leaning system under the Republican's is heading down the same road.

          I think this creedo is probably the one that will hold sway in the U.S., U.K. and most of the world in the future:

          "In the ..... State the individual is not suppressed, but rather multiplied, just as in a regiment a soldier is not weakened but multiplied by the number of his comrades. The ..... State organizes the nation, but it leaves sufficient scope to individuals; it has limited useless or harmful liberties and has preserved those that are essential. It cannot be the individual who decides in this matter, but only the State."

          It really is starting to describe what is happening in the U.S. and the U.K. in particular. If you don't recognize it it is part of Mussolini's Fascist doctrine the word to fill in the blank "......" is the "Fascist" State.
          • by _Sharp'r_ (649297) <sharper AT booksunderreview DOT com> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:15PM (#15030568) Homepage Journal
            "railroad tycoons who devastated farmers by charging just enough to ship their goods to market that the farmers made nothing or lost money for their hard work."


            I especially like how you complain about people who don't want the government to be able to control and regulate things like railroads, then use as your example a situation where special interests bought off the politicians because the government had the power to grant them severe railroad-right-of-ways monopolies and regulated pricing by the government, but controlled by the special interests.

            Isn't that the exact opposite of what the libertarians and capitalists want the government to be able to do?
            • by demachina (71715) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:36PM (#15030702)
              Well it was probably a bad example in specifics since Libertarianism hasn't really ever existed on any large scale so there is no precedent for it. The key point is you would have wealthy and powerful people who could use to their wealth to dominate their society. No they wouldn't have government interference, and politicians pandering to their special interests, but they also wouldn't have any regulating influence, and in that vacuum the people with the money, and no scruples, would aways have the edge and usually win.

              So in a Libertarian system how would you do railroads differently or at all. Let two competing interests build two railroads to serve the same markets so there is competition but twice the capital required and twice as much land wasted on right of ways. Why stop at two, how about three or four. Or of course maybe you couldn't build a railroad at all because one or a handful of Libertarian land owners could refuse to grant a critical right of way.

              I think what I am saying is we are gravitating to government and social systems at extremes.

              We do need government and a state to engage in activities that are for the common good and to check those that seek to take advantage and abuse their fellow citizens. But at the same time the state needs to be ruthlessly held in check to keep it from growing beyond reason and intruding in to the lives of its citizens where it doesn't belong.

              Todays Socialist Democrats and Fascist Republicans are building a state that is completely dominating our lives in partnership with their corprate benefactors. The Libertarians would put us in a world without sufficient government to keep a society of hundreds of millions of people functioning properly which is why no one takes them seriously.

              Moderation is the key to good government and we have no moderate leaders. We need politicians who abhor passing laws and creating government programs and bureaucracies but who are willing to do just that when there is a real and legitimate need and it is in the public interest. Right now we have professional politicians who live to churn incomprehensible bills that are pandering to one special interest after another but when looked at holistically are giant piles of steaming crap, not sound policy. Today's politicians seem to live to churn out bad legislation that each year costs us more and more money and produce less and less for benefit for the public good.
              • Interesting; you share much of the same views that I do. Yet, I call myself a libertarian; even though I don't agree 100% with the philosphy; I'm about 80% or so. I identify myself more with the Chicago school of economics than I do with the Mises school of economics, even though I base much of my viewpoints on both schools.

                My only beef with the Libertarian Party is that its views are a bit too far on the libertarian scale, almost borderlining on anarchocapitalism. Anarchocapitalism advocates the remova

        • Also, they don't need to win, they only need 5-10% to make the other major parties take notice and start moving the debate from how quickly to grow the government to whether the government should grow or shrink.

          As much as I'd like to believe you, 5-10% of the vote would cause the Demolicans and Republicrats to rig the system so it's even more hostile to third party candidates. Look what they did to Nader. I mean, I think Nader's a kook and only ran because he's an egomaniac, but I was still really ticked
      • The distinctions you make are quaint, but old-fashioned.

        Republicans have their constituents to support with projects and legislation, Dems have theirs. PAC's don't care too much who is running the show because it's pay to play all the way.

        The other thing to understand is if American's really wanted fiscal spending, then it would happen. Ideally the candidates running on fiscal conservativism would win. There's been a whole bunch of fiscally conservative legislation that gets gutted every time the budget c
    • Because if crap like this is why I came up eith my variation on thw 'line item veto'

      Instead of giving that power to the president, let's keep it in cogress with 'line item voting'

      Each line of a bill would have 3 options:

      (required) (accepted) (rejected)

      Of these a congress person must select one for each line.

      REQUIRED would meabn that this line is required in this bill or I am 100% against it.
      ACCEPTED would mean that it is ok to have but isn't important to me and the bill would be ok with or without i
  • One mans pork (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kevin_conaway (585204) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:00PM (#15029526) Homepage
    Is another mans steak
  • Bad image. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Something bothers me when I hear about urinals and spraypaint simulations in 1 sentence.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:04PM (#15029566) Journal
    Combine this admin's deficit spending like a drunk sailor and the current level of corruption of the congress, and yes, you are going to get loads of pork. Until new laws are made to restrict lobbyists influence, we will see more even when the democrats win the congress back. Sadly, I note that neither party was really wanting to curtail the lobbyiest "influence". Congressman Hefley from Colorado was booted off the ehtics committeee because other republicans was pissed that he was going after some of the worst, esp. Tom Delay. He has pushed for several good laws to stop this "influence".

    BTW, in other nations, we would call this type of influence bribery and corruption. Here we now call it business as usual.
    • I've got news for you, chum: pork was just as bad when Democrats were in power. Same shit, different pile.
      • In what way did I say or imply that the dems did not have pork? In fact, if you think about it, it takes both party to NOT pass laws that stop the corruption.

        Also, you may wish to google Hefley, a congresman who is proposing good laws for limiting corruption, and find out what party he belongs to.

        Now, if you are trying to tie dems to the republicans just because the bulk of the sleeze is tied to them for the minute, well, that is a redherring. Since the republicans are in control and appears to be the mo
      • This isn't a pork graph, but... haha [cedarcomm.com].
    • ...we will see more even when the democrats win the congress back.

      You forget: it was the republicans that awarded the Diebold voting machine contracts. So what makes you think that Democrats will win congress back?
  • Waterless toilet (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jimbolauski (882977) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:05PM (#15029587) Journal
    The waterless toilet is a great idea and it works, it's too bad that the plumbers union doesn't approve of it. Not all those projects are evil.
    • In fact, it should be useful to outhouses in parks as well as troops in small base camps.
    • by ToxikFetus (925966)
      The waterless toilet is a great idea and it works

      I agree. I've seen them in national parks/forests and they allow sanitary waste disposal without having to run massive lengths of plumbing. They're also popular at some ski resorts, but no self-respecting skier would ever use a urinal. That's why God made snow: For man to practice his urinary penmanship.

    • Here is a link (Score:3, Informative)

      by VP (32928)
      How it works [falconwaterfree.com]
    • Supposedly they work for years, but they smell.

      We have them in a new "green dorm" on campus. That plus dim lights in conference rooms and a fuel cell backup generator. A new 5kW system, nearly 100x more expensive than a gas powered system of similar size...

      Hippies.
  • Pissed off (Score:3, Funny)

    by dotslashdot (694478) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:05PM (#15029588)
    I was pissed off about the water free urinals.
  • I love the taste of real pork, hate the stench of political pork, and yet my latest project at work (ie: the one that is ensuring I don't get laid off) is an "earmark."

    I'm so torn!
  • I dunno... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:08PM (#15029612) Journal
    I have to pay for this stuff, and I don't like having my money wasted any more than the next guy does. But the only criterion these stories ever seem to use to decide what is particularly wasteful is whether they can be described in a comical fashion. Hahahahaha -- urinals! There's plenty of serious-sounding stuff in the budget that returns a lot less value to taxpayers than water conservation.

    Also, while a dollar is a dollar, even a hundred million here and there is rounding error on the federal budget. The real pieces are Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, pensions, the military and debt servicing; arguing about anything else is mostly a distraction from the structural problems.

    • Re:I dunno... (Score:3, Informative)

      by QuantumRiff (120817)
      Actually, social security is not part of the federal budget. That is a misleading figure from combining the Federal funds, and Federal Trust funds. Note on your paycheck stub that you pay 2 or 3 different fed accounts. Federal Income tax, which pays for military, and most other gov't stuff, is one item, usually, Social Security and medicare/medicaid come from other line items. These are paid for with trusts, not taxes. The Social Security TRUST is huge, amounting to trillions of dollars kept safe for s
      • Re:I dunno... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sgent (874402)
        That's a nice fiction -- but the real world doesn't care that its in a "trust fund" or not. The S&L reinsurce was in a trust fund, as was FEMA, as is the near bankrupt PBGC. The reality is that if the goverment is obligated regardless of trust fund antics. Fact is that bond buyers care about two facts: profit -- total government reciepts - total government expenditures; and net worth (Total Assets - Total Liabilities).
    • This project took a year of research and number crunching (and procrastination) according to the author, but it's a nice visual layout of government spending in the US.

      The project page [deviantart.com].
    • Thank you. Very good point. If those waterless urinals don't stink, I don't mind paying my share to put them everywhere.

      Just to ad to your point about rounding errors, Social Security is paid separately out of social security money, not out of regular federal tax revenue, so it doesn't even belong on the list with Military Spending etc...

    • Also, while a dollar is a dollar, even a hundred million here and there is rounding error on the federal budget. The real pieces are Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, pensions, the military and debt servicing; arguing about anything else is mostly a distraction from the structural problems.

      That's FUCKING BULLSHIT.

      The Iraq CPA *lost* $9 Billion.

      And NOBODY is investigating it.

      A few hundred mil here and there as a rounding error, yeah, fine. But compared to $9B, the "evil social spending" is chicken feed.

      Pe
  • NMCI (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:10PM (#15029640) Homepage
    Government watchdogs, however, say earmarks ostensibly related to technology are clearly on the rise.

    Just look at the Navy's NMCI project. What a boondoggle. 8 billion dollars for a computer system where many users have to resort to using their own equipment to get anything done.

    Of course the contract award to EDS didn't have anything to do with EDS being in Bush's home state. We all know how honest government contract awards are under our glorious Republican leadership, dedicated to bringing accountability into government affairs and responsibility into government spending.

    • With all due respect, while I know that Bush isn't the greatest president we've ever had, I believe that the NMCI contract was in the works before his time. It was also negotiated by the Dept of the Navy, if I recall. Congress had a big thing where they scolded the Navy for awarding a this as a sole-source contract.

      So, while the NMCI might not be so great, and, while Bush may not be so great either, I don't think that the two are related.
      • Re:NMCI (Score:4, Informative)

        by NitsujTPU (19263) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:35PM (#15029829)
        Yes, here's the timeline.

        http://www.nmci.navy.mil/Press_Room/NMCI%20AT%20A% 20Glance [navy.mil]

        NMCI was talked about while I had a summer job doing network support at a Navy base as an undergraduate. The contract was awarded in October, 2000. Bush wasn't even elected yet.
    • NMCI was underway LONG before Bush took office.

      While all of it was deployed during Bush's term, that alone should tell you the the planning (such that it was) began long before that.

      I know; I worked for the Navy and spent many a frustrating hour on NMCI systems. Your post was a frankly pathetic attack on Bush. Especially since there are far more egregious messes you could have pinned on him.
  • Are those like poop-free toilets? Because I get one of those every now and then. But an increase in dietary fiber almost always seems to help.
  • I had to read TFA if only for this vit:

    For the last few years, Oberstar has worked to secure millions of dollars for the college's simulator, which involves a computer-connected gun similar to those of video games. The gun can be used to "spray" paint on a screen in a manner akin to Adobe Photoshop's airbrush tool. The college's Web site says some local businesses want to use the simulator for training painters, but it does not identify any possible military applications for the project.

    Based on my days in

    • Based on my days in the arcade industry, I truly believe this could be designed, programmed, and built for ten opr twenty grand at most.

      You could do it for ten or twenty *dollars* if you used secondhand hardware like the Power Glove. Or, better yet, why not just buy a gyroscopic mouse or a graphics tablet and use Photoshop/GIMP?
    • 10 grand? This is why I'd be rubbish in sales.

      "Sure, we can do it, cheap ass PC and an off the shelf light gun hacked into a paint sprayer. We'll use the GIMP to keep software costs down. Lets call it a grand, there's no way it'll cost us more than a couple of hundred in parts."

    • Based on my days in the arcade industry, I truly believe this could be designed, programmed, and built for ten opr twenty grand at most.

      Come on, now, I think $19,900 for beer is padding the budget a bit much, don't you?

  • Some ideas (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eviloverlordx (99809) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:11PM (#15029652)
    Here are a couple of ideas for the pork barrel:

    a VR program that can train a congressman how to count, so the budget can get balanced

    or

    a robot teacher to teach science to Republicans

    I'm sure I can come up with more pie-in-the-sky ideas.

  • The new lobbying reform bill, which either was just enacted, or is about to be enacted (I haven't seen much news in the last few days) does change the way this pork will work a bit...

    While the bill isn't very groundbreaking, and doesn't change much, it does make a new policy for earmarks. Now all earmarks must be published 24 hours in advance, and the earmark can be stripped from the bill if 40 members of congress wish it to be removed.

    Of course, if you tried to remove an earmark placed by a powerful
  • One party rule (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plopez (54068) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:35PM (#15029830) Journal
    What makes the pork easier is the defacto one party rule. There is no real accountability, and congress at this point is also no better than the president's rubber stamp. WIth a split congress some of the excesses may dissappear. As well as returning a little democracy to congress.
  • by marlinSpike (894812) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:36PM (#15029836)
    Fellow /.tters, Everybody who has partaken in, endorsed or voiced a paranoia about losing their jobs to developers in India, China or suchlike foreign countries with lower costs of living, spare a minute before you last out at Pork.

    After all, Pork is the onething that's guaranteed not to be outsourced! Think about it -- you can finally ignore all those teaser /. articles about the newest company to invest $1B in India... you won't give a crap, because your job will be safe for 10 years or more, which in the Tech industry is an eon.

    Now the only thing you'll have to worry about is getting the right Pork project, so that your skills don't languish in those 10 years, so much so that you become outmoded even for Pork projects.

    Cheer up fellow /.tters. It's Washington to the rescue!

  • by nbahi15 (163501) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:44PM (#15029893) Homepage

    One man's pork is another man's state-craft.
    That is what one of my political science professors said about so called pork and I tend to agree. Getting up in arms over what doesn't directly benefit you, or that you don't understand is fairly normal. For example I am sure the same people that complain about water-free urinal technology were buying grey market toilets when congress mandated low flush technology. Sure there were problems in the beginning, but nothing some hard working engineers can't sort out. Frankly I think not flushing relatively scarce fresh water down the not-so-proberbial toilet is a good idea, but hey I am a tree hugging, dirt worshipper.

    Let's be honest, some people complain if you spend money on anything other than what they personally like. Which would be fine if you represented everyone, and were fairly omniscient. Alas, nobody seems to listen to me when I say we should cut the War Department's (AKA Department of Defense) budget in half, and give the money to the national lab's, NASA, and health coverage for all American's

    Because to me the pork in the economy is the military.

    • yup, pork benefits somebody. Just because its not you, doesn't diminish the value to the other person. I do think its out of hand, but pork is only meter-stick constituents have for their representative. If you're really going to get mad about it, get mad at your representitive for not bringing more to you.
    • For example I am sure the same people that complain about water-free urinal technology were buying grey market toilets when congress mandated low flush technology. Sure there were problems in the beginning, but nothing some hard working engineers can't sort out. Frankly I think not flushing relatively scarce fresh water down the not-so-proberbial toilet is a good idea, but hey I am a tree hugging, dirt worshipper.

      I'm tired of flushing -> waiting forever for toilet to reload -> re-flushing. I'm more ti

  • by mpapet (761907) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @06:40PM (#15030338) Homepage
    Typical ./ reaction, hands wringing, Oh dear, Oh my!

    Well, let me be the first then to suggest:

    http://www.taxpayer.net/ [taxpayer.net]

    http://www.taxfoundation.org/ [taxfoundation.org]

    http://www.concordcoalition.org/issues/scorecard/i ndex.html [concordcoalition.org]

    Each spin a different way and I'm sure there's a few dozen more groups out there. One of which is bound to have a message that you agree with.

    Ah Fear, what ever happened to Lee Ving anyway?
  • by Doug Dante (22218) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @06:53PM (#15030420)
    The US Federal government has given a $100 Million grant to "research" Ann Arbor To Detroit [detnews.com] mass transit system that just won't be built!

    All of the important decisions about the rail have already been made, and the "research" mainly consists of trying to convince people that it's worth the astronomical costs to invest more money in such a system. We get so much federal funding from gas taxes specially allocated to mass transit, and Michigan has very little besides cars, so it's use it or loose it, but the proposal is just not going to happen in a region with a local recession, reasonably limited traffic congestion, and stable to declining population.

    Sadly, this "research" gets in the way examinig of potentially useful and applicable solutions, which might actually be installed, and might actually have a net positive impact, especially in Detroit where poverty is so aweful and people have a genuine lack of transportation. Cheaper and faster solutions such as Mini Pods, more buses, or even rentable GPS tracked electric motor bikes might be considered instead.

    Heck, just toss aside a measly 3% and double the M-Prize [mprize.org] and you'll do the people of Metro Detroit more good.

  • by Dhar (19056)
    Ain't that an alley?

    -g.

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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