GOVERNMENT IN ACTION
Among the federally funded projects highlighted in the “2012 Waste Book” of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn were a $325,000 grant to develop a “robosquirrel” (to help study the somehow-confusing interaction between squirrels and rattlesnakes) and a $700,000 grant by the National Science Foundation for a New York theater company to create a musical about climate change and biodiversity (which actually opened this year, in Kansas City, and included among its concepts, according to one critic, “flying monkey poop”). Abuses of the food stamp program were also detailed, such as by one exotic dancer who, while earning $85,000, drew food stamps in an amount roughly equivalent to the sum she spent on “cosmetic enhancements.”
OUR HEROIC MILITARY BUREAUCRATS
While the Department of Veterans Affairs remains under criticism for inadequate funding for personnel disabled in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, it spent in 2010 more than $5 million on training conferences just to teach bureaucrats how to administer parts of its latest collective-bargaining contract, according to an October report in the Washington Examiner. In fact, reported the Examiner, $34 million in payroll goes to department officials who work mainly on union-related activities.
“I wanted to create a self-portrait that was completely stripped of… visual prejudice,” said Polish-born New York artist Martynka Wawrzyniak, who thus chose the medium of “smell” for her gallery showing in New York City (running through mid-November). For starters, she “scientifically extracted” her hair oils, armpit perspiration and tears (to protest humans’ cloaking themselves in deodorant soaps and laundry powders), and blasted visitors with whiffs of it as they entered the gallery.
GETTING OUT THE VOTE
Just before a primary election in June, Albuquerque, N.M., TV station KOB apparently caught, on camera, a poll worker for two county government candidates offering potential voters miniature bottles of whiskey to sip during free rides to early voting centers. And Los Angeles’ KCBS-TV reported in October that leaflets sponsored by the Progress and Collaboration Slate for its local candidates in Eagle Rock, Calif., also mentioned an offer of $40 worth of “medical-grade marijuana” as incentive for voting.
WORLD OF STATECRAFT
Colleen Lachowicz won her contest for a Maine state senate seat in November despite ridicule by opponents for her admitted devotion to the online game World of Warcraft. “Certainly,” said an opposing-party official, “the fact that she spends so much time on a video game says something about her work ethic and … immaturity.” Her WoW character is Santiaga, an “orc [Level 85] assassination rogue” with green skin, fangs, Mohawk and pointy ears.
GOVERNMENT IN ACTION