Pork-barreling, the seemingly inalienable right of an elected representative to use everybody's tax money to keep the folks back home—his home—happy, has taken three healthy jabs to the midsection in the last few weeks.
First, the $10.1 billion public-works bill, which contained $1.8 billion worth of water projects, several of which were scandalously wasteful of public money and natural resources (SCORECARD, July 17), was vetoed by President Carter.
Second, the attempt of Congress to override the Carter veto failed, thanks to a well-organized lobbying campaign by the White House.
And finally, last week, a substitute bill, which eliminates 17 boondoggles and cuts the total cost of the water projects from $1.8, billion to $841 million, was passed by a voice vote of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Prominent among the 17 projects that will dry up for lack of funding is the Lukfata Dam in southeastern Oklahoma, which would have cost $34 million and would have blocked Glover Creek in McCurtain County, the last free-flowing river in the state. Supporters of the dam, which has been a controversial issue ever since the Army Corps of Engineers first proposed it in 1954, said it was necessary for flood control. Others anticipated the sort of recreational boom that has often accompanied the creation of large man-made lakes. But opponents, including a coalition of conservationists, ecologists and canoeists, protested that flooding could be controlled with small earth dams on tributaries to Glover Creek and that the scenic beauty of that mountainous, pine-forested corner of the state would be destroyed.
However, what caused the Lukfata Dam to be included on President Carter's hit list of wasteful projects was the decision that the benefits of the dam did not justify its cost. A prime beneficiary, said federal officials, would be a single catfish farmer.
Three jabs don't make a knockout, of course, but the public interest has won a round.
Now you see it, now you don't. The elusive $30 million that was supposed to be part and parcel of the Olympic sports bill (SCORECARD, Sept. 25) and which has been kicked around more than Richard Nixon, almost vanished again last weekend. A dwindling House of Representatives, rushing toward adjournment, voted 54 to 42 at 1 a.m. to delete the money from its version of the bill. (The Senate had passed an almost identical version with the $30 million intact.)
Supporters of the bill, caught off guard by the vote, scurried around through the early morning hours and managed to get $16 million written into something called a "continuing resolution for funding," a last-minute catchall into which are thrown bills amended too late in a session to be rewritten. Because the continuing resolution contains many key pieces of funding, including the public-works bill (see above), it was passed by a voice vote of the House and will undoubtedly soon be signed by the President.
Judging by the morning-after jubilance of the bill's backers in the face of losing almost half the money they said they needed, half a loaf is clearly not only better than none, it will do nicely.
TO EACH HIS OWN
The Governor's Cup, the trophy awarded in the Wilmington (Del.) Harbor Fall Racing Series for Laser-class sailors, was won by Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV, the governor.
The Nieman-Marcus Christmas catalog, that annual compendium of glorious excess, has arrived. On page one, billed as "the greatest finale to a dinner party ever conceived," is an entirely edible Monopoly game. The board, the tokens and the property cards are dark chocolate. Everything else is either milk chocolate, butter cream or butterscotch. If the whole idea makes you feel slightly ill, wait till you hear the price—$600.
Since the NCAA cut the number of football scholarships that colleges can offer, things have been tough all over. But when a school in the football-crazed Southeast Conference has to recruit by handbill...well, the mind boggles. Yet posted around the Auburn campus alongside the usual announcements of car washes and rock concerts were handouts headlined SO YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO PLAY BIG-TIME COLLEGE FOOTBALL.
"Here's your chance," the message read. "Coach Doug Barfield is actively soliciting your support in making a contribution to Auburn football...an open invitation has been extended to eligible members of the Auburn student body who are interested in playing college football on both the varsity and junior varsity level.
"If you're interested, contact Coach Joe Connally or Coach Jim Hilyer at the Athletic Department in Memorial Coliseum. The phone number is...etc."
The return of the scholar-athlete may be at hand.
The Boston Red Sox took in nearly $3.5 million this year, one of the most profitable seasons in the history of the American League. Now Red Sox management has decided that $3.5 million is not enough. Beginning next year all 7,369 bleacher seats will be sold on a reserved basis, and instead of being $2 per seat they will be $3.50 for a season-ticket holder, $3 if bought in advance and $2 if bought on game day.
No more, as long as the Sox stay hot, will a fan be able to decide on the spur of the moment that watching the Sox beat up on the Yankees, say, even if it means standing in a long line, would be a nice way to spend a summer night.
Claims Fenway ticket manager Arthur Muscato, "There were good reasons for this change in policy. One is that it will not require fans to wait four or five hours for rush bleacher seats. And it would help with crowd control. Some people waiting for tickets would go through a six-pack of beer, at least. And then those tanked-up fans would go into the park and drink more beer."
From now on some of Boston's most loyal fans are going to be tanking up in front of a TV set, and when the time comes—as it will sooner or later—that the Red Sox have a run of poor seasons and the level of interest falls and attendance drops off, management may find itself wondering what ever happened to all those people who used to fill Fenway's bleachers.
When Bruce Herman, the new sports information director at San Diego State, introduced himself to Cal Ray Anderson, a flashy freshman tailback from Texas City, Texas, and asked him which name he wanted to be called, Anderson replied, "You can call me Cal, or you can call me Ray, or you can call me Cal Ray, or you can call me...."
Television's bottom line does not always dictate a happy ending for sports fans, but CBS has seen the light. After it turned the Heisman Trophy presentation into one of those tawdry Emmy-Grammy-Tony carnivals last year and consequently flopped in the marketplace, the network declined to try again.
The Downtown Athletic Club of New York, which has been giving away its highly prized bronze statuette of a running back for 43 years and should have known better than to sell it for a mess of TV pottage, will return to the traditional format. The winner will be announced at a news conference on Nov. 28, and a black-tie dinner at a Manhattan hotel will follow on Dec. 7. Replacing last year's "entertainment"—Leslie Uggams, Connie Stevens, George Plimpton, Phyllis George, Elliott Gould, Robert Klein and a dozen or so hoofers—will be Congressman Jack Kemp, a former Occidental (and pro) quarterback.
The spotlight will not be quite so bright this year, but at least it will be trained in the right direction.
The death in Hagerstown, Md. last week of Representative Goodloe Byron, 49, of an apparent heart attack during a 15-mile training run along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath does not prove or disprove anything about the relationship of running to heart disease, but it does serve as a reminder of how little is known about that relationship.
Byron had run six Boston Marathons, his best time being 3:28.40 in 1974 when he was 44 years old. He was 5'7", weighed 130 pounds, ran almost every day for at least half an hour and he had not smoked in more than 25 years. On the other hand he had a family history of early death from heart disease, and two cardiologists had advised him to stop running because of a "severe abnormality" discovered in tests nine months ago.
Some doctors see running as a form of medical insurance. A California pathologist says flatly, "Completion of a marathon in under four hours is permanent immunity against a heart attack due to arteriosclerosis."
But for every such conclusion there are those who say, "Hogwash," or words to that effect, and more who have reached no conclusion at all. As Coleman McCarthy, a 40-year-old runner, wrote in his Washington Post column the day after Byron's death, "One certainty is clear; a ton of grant money is available for more studies, with researchers ready to run up Heartbreak Hill to get it."
In a medical debate that involves America's hottest new sport and America's longtime leading killer, the more opinions the better. An ounce of honest maybe is worth a pound of undocumented sure.
Violence, it has been said, is as American as cherry pie. Make that pie à la mode. Baskin-Robbins, once the gentle purveyor of ice creams such as Pablo Picashew and Here Come the Fudge, has named its latest flavor of the month Quarterback Crunch.
Where will it all lead? Banana Blitz? Block Walnut? Any Given Sundae?
Bob Short, the man who once owned the Washington Senators, is now close to becoming one. In the Democratic senatorial primary in Minnesota on Sept. 12, Short, these days an Edina trucking executive, upset the Democratic Establishment's candidate, Donald Fraser, by 3,000 votes and is now favored to beat the Republican candidate, David Durenberger, in November.
Several factors led to Short's victory. While he was anti tax and abortion, he was also pro snowmobile and motorboat. The former stance was merely safe; the latter brought him a windfall of votes from the northern part of the state, where locals, dependent on tourist income, are up in arms over government restriction of the use of such machines in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a wilderness of lakes on the Canadian border. Another factor was at Short's elbow throughout the final week of campaigning. Billy Martin, out of a job in New York but as popular as ever in the Twin Cities, stumped the state for his old pal.
Short, who would undoubtedly have an uphill fight getting himself elected dogcatcher in Washington, D.C., a town that has neither forgotten nor forgiven his moving the Senators to Texas in 1972, also benefited from the fact that Minnesotans never gave a hoot that he moved the Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles in 1960.
THEY SAID IT
•Ron Bolton, Cleveland Browns defensive back, after a questionable call: "Officials are the only guys who can rob you and then get a police escort out of the stadium."
•Torchy Clark, basketball coach at Florida Technological University, on coaching in Division II: "We get less publicity. We get less money. But we are equal in getting high blood pressure, ulcers, heart attacks and, oh yes, fired."
•Johnny Carson, on NBC's poor Nielsen ratings lately: "If the World Series goes seven games, it will be NBC's longest-running show this fall."