Sunday, February 10, 2008

Earmarks and Veterans

The New York Times has an excellent article about earmarks in the budget of the federal government. Congress can put earmarks for funds for pet projects for their district in two ways, directly into the budget - which rarely done as it takes a vote to include it, or in committee reports which are attached to the budget sent to the President and the most common method.

We heard the President rile at the the use of earmarks in his 2008 State of the Union address. Congress promised to cut them in half with the 2007-08 Congressional session. They suceeded in reducing them by 43% when the Republicans had been increasing them every year to record levels from 2001 to 2007 when the Democrats took over Congress in the 2006 elections. President Bush didn't blink an eye when signing budgets with all those Republican earmarks, most of which were put into the budget after it had passed Congress and just before being sent to the President.

What Bush didn't say in his address is that President Bush's administration has sneaked more earmarks into their budget sent to Congress than the Democrats had in their 2007-08 budget. It's really a "What the Fuck" moment. I mean how can a President rile at Congress for doing something he knows he's done more than them. It's like a drunk criticizing an alcoholic for drinking too much. Someone needs to hit the President with a baseball bat and tell him, "George, what are you thinking? Can you really believe that selling an idea you equally break is a good way to lead this country?"

What's ironic is that while Bush threatens to veto funding authorizations with earmarks not in the actual funding bill, meaning in committee reports, he's asking for many of the same earmarks in his spending requests to Congress. So, while he riles at Congressional representatives helping their districts, he doing the same thing in the name of Republicans to win votes in the next elections. And he talks about the Democrats doing the same? Give me break.

Ok, enough about George. Something serious for a change.

Henry Richard Landis, one of the last two surviving US World War I veterans passed way this last week at the age of 108. And now there is one, Frank Buckles.

Last year on Veterans Day I listened to a broadcast of a documentary about the surviving British WWI veterans, about a dozen to date then, and rapidly declining with each year. And there was one thread these and every veteran knows, no matter how old or even how forgetful they get, you never lose your memories of your time in the service.

This sounds odd, especially as you get older you forget the past, but it's true, these memories stay with you because they're wired into your memory of your youth. I'm not sure if or how neurobiologist can explain it, but it happens. The British WWI veterans remembered the places they were, people and friends they knew, and especially the events, meaning battles, deaths, etc., with fairly good recall. All as if it were yesterday.

I remember my time from the day I enlisted on March 7, 1969 to the day I was discharged, January 2, 1973, and everything in between. As for the WWI veterans, in the near future, there will be none. We will lose a legacy of veterans who experienced war as we've never known since. And all the books, audio and video won't replace the human being.

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