Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Kyrgyzstan and the United States

The BBC reports today that Kyrgyzstan will be shuttering the United States air base outside the capital city of Bishkek. This is pretty big news any direction that you cut it, but given our new "focus" on fixing things in Afghanistan, the closing of the Manas base is really, really, really important. You can check out my paper about Democratization in Kyrgyzstan on GoogleDocs; it has a few bits about the air base and its importance.

We've never really treated our Central Asian presence as seriously as I would have hoped for, and it shows. The turning down of American interests in Central Asia is to be expected, even in the face of President Obama's hopes for changing the perception of America. Russia has come out ahead, largely because they have decided to pay the Kyrgyz for the privileges of hanging out.

This sucks, yes, and I don't know how to recoup these losses. Between Manas and the Kharshi-Khanabad "issue" in 2005, the United States is being edged out of one of the most important places on earth.

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The Pork Protest

It's official - I've decided to protest pork in the upcoming stimulus bill. CNN has a nice list (compiled by House GOP folk) of some of the sillier bits:

• $2 billion earmark to re-start FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant in Illinois that the Department of Energy defunded last year because it said the project was inefficient.

• A $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film.

• $650 million for the digital television converter box coupon program.

• $88 million for the Coast Guard to design a new polar icebreaker (arctic ship).

• $448 million for constructing the Department of Homeland Security headquarters.

• $248 million for furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters.

• $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees.

• $400 million for the Centers for Disease Control to screen and prevent STD's.

• $1.4 billion for rural waste disposal programs.

• $125 million for the Washington sewer system.

• $150 million for Smithsonian museum facilities.

• $1 billion for the 2010 Census, which has a projected cost overrun of $3 billion.

• $75 million for "smoking cessation activities."

• $200 million for public computer centers at community colleges.

• $75 million for salaries of employees at the FBI.

• $25 million for tribal alcohol and substance abuse reduction.

• $500 million for flood reduction projects on the Mississippi River.

• $10 million to inspect canals in urban areas.

• $6 billion to turn federal buildings into "green" buildings.

• $500 million for state and local fire stations.

• $650 million for wildland fire management on forest service lands.

• $1.2 billion for "youth activities," including youth summer job programs.

• $88 million for renovating the headquarters of the Public Health Service.

• $412 million for CDC buildings and property.

• $500 million for building and repairing National Institutes of Health facilities in Bethesda, Maryland.

• $160 million for "paid volunteers" at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

• $5.5 million for "energy efficiency initiatives" at the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.

• $850 million for Amtrak.

• $100 million for reducing the hazard of lead-based paint.

• $75 million to construct a "security training" facility for State Department Security officers when they can be trained at existing facilities of other agencies.

• $110 million to the Farm Service Agency to upgrade computer systems.

• $200 million in funding for the lease of alternative energy vehicles for use on military installations.

If there's one thing that we can trust Congress to do, it's to ignore the task at hand and do something silly. This cannot stand. It's a stimulus bill, not a pet project...project.

The regular media has to talk about this more - I only hope that regular Americans call their elected officials. Many of these programs are worthy, yes, but they will not jumpstart (or even rescue) the economy.

This is the Pork Protest.