20 thoughts on “Anderson Cooper Just Did Another Cool Thing…”

  1. How much time were they given to respond? Based on some of the non-responses, it almost seems as if his interns gave them a deadline of getting the information to them by the end of the day. With a non-response rate of over 70% (and at least a few Congressmen who apparently weren’t even contacted based on the totals), I’m not sure how useful this information is.

  2. This was very funny, and I’ve passed it on to a friend.

    It will be interesting to see what the answers become in a week or so.

    Will people just hope the questioner forgets his question? Or make up stories about how the dog ate their homework? Or what?

  3. Well if he can get the response rate to 60%+ perhaps he could shame the rest into it? Put up a list of “Most Wanted Congresspersons” or something. I mean, the damage is done. What does he have to lose after this wonderful stunt?

  4. Agree with Thorley. Cooper should have waited longer for responses and/or the interns should have been more persistent (How many times did they call?), so we could have more useful information.

    Also, do not understand the difference Cooper apparently places on the response of “No” and “No, did not ask for any earmarks.”

    One interesting response was that of William Jefferson, who is under indictment for taking bribes (was caught with $90k of hot bribe money ‘cooling off’ in his freezer). His answer of “We don’t make that information public” is somewhat telling.

    What did Cooper do with the info? A news story? What was his conclusion? Whatever he reported, it seems the data is almost useless and inconlusive.

    All I can conclude is that either Congressmen do not respond well to ad hoc, politically charged questions from reporters interns or that Cooper’s team did a lousy job surveying them.

    Are not the earmarks public record? How about scouring the last few years, or at least months, of bills passed to see exactly who earmarked how much for what boondoggle. Now that would be interesting.

  5. Mike: The earmarks are public record, the writers are not.

    CNN morning show did a follow up this morning. I did my typical “I’ll just flip through CNN, get angry at the lack of news before changing to sportscenter” routine, when this came on.

    They interviewed the interns that made the phone calls(it still is sad that actual ‘reporting’ is given to the interns). At first it was fairly easy to get hold of representatives (or the offices of representatives), and at first these offices were ‘suprised’ by the ‘unusual’ request, but after a few hours of calling, word had gotten round the capital. Apparently the rate of answered phone called dropped quickly, and those that did answer basically said “I’ve been waiting for your phone call, and I’m not answering your question.”.

    It doesn’t sound like they gave them much time though. Hopefully they will continue to do follow-up stories. (it’s easy enough that it shouldn’t be a problem).

  6. A quick analysis shows a trend:

    Earmark Analysis

    No Earmark
    Rep 6 85%
    Dem 1 15%

    Rep 20 65%
    Dem 11 35%

    No Resp
    Rep 147 45%
    Dem 182 55%

    Rep 27 40%
    Dem 41 60%

  7. Problem i really have is that before the last election that trend would have been the opposite as the party out of power tried to embarrass the party in power. If Reps win back Congress it would swap back. There are pathetically few Congresspeople that legitimately are opposed to the earmark process philosophically, much less the secretness of it.

    I dont have any good answers- term limits are rife with unintended consequences, and the idea of citizen legislatures simply puts even more power in the hands of the permanent bureuacracy, which is even scarier than what we have now.

    The system is broken because the government is WAY too big, and its way too big because all three branches have allowed it to grow in directions and magnitude that it was never intended to. That in fact it was forbidden to by the oldest tenants of our founding.

  8. Gabriel, that is a slightly uneven way of looking at the numbers. Let’s try these percentages instead:

    No earmarks
    0.35% of Dem party
    2.4% of Republican party

    Published earmarks
    3.9% of Dem party
    8% of Republican party

    Will not publish earmarks
    14.4% of Democratic Party
    10.7% of Republican party

    Did not respond:
    81.3% of Dem Party
    78.9% of Republican Party

    Based on this poll (so far) the Republican party is 6.5% cleaner than democrats. Woohoo. Obviously the D party has got to get their act together and start requiring earmarks (a bill has already passed house, but unlikely to pass senate). But these numbers are so bad (and include so much error from the non-reponse rate) that I wouldn’t rush to call my party superior yet.

  9. alchemist:

    Last time I checked the Democrats ran in 06 on a promise of earmark reform. The numbers speak for themselves.

    I don’t make any claims that one party is “superior” to the other, though I tend to trend right, both parties are horrible scum when it comes to blowing taxpayers money.

    You and I both know that no meaningful earmark reform will take place under this, or any other Congress. So while it’s fun to point out the numerous broken promises, lies, and bullshit that spew forth from the mouths of Obey, Pelosi, and Ried it won’t do much to stop the abuse because very few if any, media groups are pushing wastefull government spending stories with the kind of thrust that is needed for the docile populace to rise up and actually get pissed enough to vote these scum out of office.

    Given how unpopular the current immigration shamnesty bill is, (trending 70% or greater against in legitimate polls), even a mass voter revolt would probably have little if no effect.

  10. Mark B. et al,

    “The system is broken because the government is WAY too big…”

    First question: is the system really broken? when was it working better? a fair question, right? since the notion that it is broken now implies that it once was working. when was life in the usa better for more or most people? is literacy declining? is infant mortality rising? what is mean income vs. rest of world? are more baseball games available for the average viewer? are there fewer moms? do hot dogs taste worse? are more or less apple pies being baked/consumed? are we going to hell in a handbasket or are we an exceptional nation that stands head and shoulders above all others? I just don’t see decline here. was there ever a time in us history when congressmen were more moral, upstanding, less corrupt, more attuned to the desires of their constituents, less beholdent to special interests? are us citizens/voters in more or less control of their political destinies than a) citizens of other countries? b) us citizens in dreamy times-gone-by. not that there isn’t room for improvement, but BROKEN? really? compared to what? the ideal?

    Second question: are earmarks necessarily a bad thing? what percentage of taxpayer dollars distributed back to the communities that paid the tax through earmarks is spent on projects/programs that are not worthwhile? I know that bridges to nowhere get a lot of attention, but perhaps such projects receive a disproportionate amount of attention. perhaps a lot of earmaked dollars go to worthwhile projects. I’m not saying I know the answer but I am wondering if anyone else does either and whether there might not be something of a knee-jerk reaction going on here.

    I do know that here in NYC all capital projects, whether in parks, hospitals, libraries, roads, tunnels, bridges, playgrounds, etc… are generally the result of earmarks at either the municipal, state or federal levels. Overall, I am pleased with the results that elected officials have managed here. I mean, yes, sure, I would like better roads and fewer potholes but that would require higher taxes and I understand that’s a difficult political proposition.

    No question that earmarks should be a matter of public record and if that is not the case a change in policy would be in the public interest. But in and of themselves, I can’t see them as inherently bad things.

  11. Mark- everything you’ve listed is a result of our economy and culture, in my opinion they have succeeded _in spite of_ our government in most cases.

    How is our government broken? Our national debt as of today is $8,809,399,618,391,01. Thats about $30,000 for every man, woman, and child in the nation. If we could somehow turn the nations entire consumption, investment, government spending, and exports into cash, it would take 9 months of devoting the entire nations economic output into paying off that debt. And we’re spending money on the Sparta Teapot Museum and wood utilization research.

    And thats all before our ‘entitlement’ nightmare kicks in. So yeh, i definately think the system is broken and headed for a cliff that will involve either the economy shoved into the tank via stifling taxation, or a complete war between entitlement recipients and tax payers.

    Its not the jump off the cliff, or the fall that gets you, after all.

  12. Interesting: not only did Sessions not get back to Cooper, his message inbox is full. Convenient, that…

  13. The Sparta Teapot Museum is an effort to have economic development in one corner of Appalachia.
    I believe that the museum being built will also have community meeting facilities, and an auditorium for community use.
    “Here is the rationale behind the museum and other partners involved.”:http://www.carolinajournal.com/exclusives/display_exclusive.html?id=2717

    I’m sure with many earmarks, you would get comments like I just made. Whether we’re going over the cliff for reasons like this, I don’t know.

  14. Being the model citizen that I am, i’m willing to go out on a limb and propose the Mark Buehner Memorial Empty Jack Daniels Bottle Museum. It is an effort to support economic growth in my town, and will have all sorts of community benefits- including a spa, oceanarium, and dolphin riding. I reserve the golf course for me and my congressional sponsors.

    You could claim economic growth for ANY rationale of how to spend government money. We could ask for an earmark to shovel pitchfork loads of cash into a kiln and the job it provided would be an economic incentive for the region.

    Of course all us free market champions might note that if this is such a great opportunity to make money for the region, the region ought to pony up the investment out of sheer self interest.

    The point is why are we borrowing money that school kids in Wyoming and Mississippi are going to have to pay back to ‘spur economic activity’ in Appalatia? I don’t see anything about that in the Constitution, the Federalist papers, anywhere. Why is the government using its power to levy taxes to interfere in the free market in these instances? How can we be satisified that this will provide any net good at all to the nation, or even the region? Why doesnt anybody in Washington even think about these questions anymore?

  15. Mark & Pedrog: Altough museums like this are started all the time, and largely fail (see Roger & me for a similar failure in flint, MI), keeping track of earmarks won’t prevent these bills from passing (especially since senators & congressmen are elected in their own state).

    IT will, however, make senators and congressmen accountible for their spending. If they propose stupid, wastefull ideas, they’re putting their candidacy out on a limb. If it works, (or if it pleases their citizens), they look good. If it fails, or their home citizens think their projects are worthless, they can be figure out who screwed up. I think this is not about attacking candidates, it’s about making the goverment more transparent to citizens.

  16. MB: “The point is why are we borrowing money that school kids in Wyoming and Mississippi are going to have to pay back to ‘spur economic activity’ in Appalachia? … Why is the government using its power to levy taxes to interfere in the free market in these instances?”

    Because the most lucrative contracts are government contracts. Nothing like a good public works project for a little corruption, mismanagement, over-billing, and outright embezzlement. (Think Boston Big Dig, Gravina Island Bridge, or any number of totally pointless infrastructure projects in Iraq.)

    I suppose that we’re a little better off than your average Panamanian, or Kenyan, for example: the museum might be overpriced, and pointless… but at least we DO get the museum.

    I’m personally surprised that the border fence hasn’t yet been realized. That’s a fantastic opportunity for firms like Raytheon and Lockheed to get fat building the most expensive border defense since the great wall of China. And they definitely have the retained earnings to lobby the Congressmen, uh, “fund the initial research to design sensor networks.”

    Funny, though: I think the Chinese actually USED the Great Wall for awhile.

    And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…

  17. I think Anderson Cooper is one of the best newscasters out there right now. Unfortunately, at CNN he is the exception, not the rule.

  18. I haven’t watched Anderson Cooper since he ran an “insurgent” video of Qaedists killing US troops in an ambush. Don’t really care what he says at this point. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere…

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