Commentary: Pork, flies and research dollars

This editorial appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008.

The e-mail so urgently wanted to alert the public to Sarah Palin’s disdain for science that it showed up three different times - from three different sources.

Editorial writers call this kind of e-mail "turf," as in Astroturf or phony grass, because the letters tend to be standard-format, mass-generated writing masquerading as genuine grassroots outrage.

It might be easy to bypass the blitz because the letters aren’t original. But that would be a mistake because, turf or not, the message recounted another head-slapper that’s got to make thoughtful people wonder, "What on earth are they thinking?"

Palin, the Republican’s vice presidential nominee, last week gave a speech promising to fully support educational programs for special-needs children using taxpayer dollars, even if families want to use those federal funds for private schools. She called for strengthening the National Institutes of Health and providing more services for disabled high school and community college students.

Fair enough. Addressing concerns of a segment of the American people who want to be heard.

But even if you favor more services for special-needs kids, it’s hard to miss the irony (though the Alaska governor apparently does) of Palin vowing to expand the use of taxpayer dollars even though she’s persistently dissed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a "socialist" because of his spending proposals.

How would she fund her pledges? Prioritize spending, she said. Rechannel money away from "earmarks for pet political projects."

Not necessarily a bad idea, given some of that pet pork really is just lard to pad lawmakers' re-election chances.

But here's where the fine print gives you more than a little pause.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.