Texas congressman uses porn to kill science funding

By Phil Plait | May 17, 2010 12:34 pm

I know that there are rules to the way laws are made by our government here in the U.S., and that sometimes these rules seem weird and arcane. In general, these rules have evolved to make sure that the majority doesn’t stomp on the minority, and the minority still has a voice.

TXRepRalphHallBut it’s also clear that those rules can be abused. In the case of U.S. Congressman Ralph Hall (R-TX), “abuse” isn’t nearly a big enough word. “Cynically manipulated” might be a bit better. He killed a bill that would fund science innovation and education by tying it to punishing people who look at porn at work.

Seriously. This is truly disgusting, and has to be seen to be believed. Please read that link above.

Basically, the America COMPETES act, instituted under the Bush Administration in 2007, funds a lot of technology and other endeavors to keep the US competitive in the world market. Of course, in the current economic market, we don’t have a lot of money to go around. But this bill would have re-authorized that earlier act, funding what is essentially seed corn, making sure that in the years to come we have a robust investment in our own economy. I wasn’t that familiar with it, but after reading about it I’ll say it’s one of the few things done by the previous President I think is a good idea. So did a lot of others: this reauthorization bill had over 100 co-sponsors in the House.

I say “had”, because after the shameful and politically transparent move by Rep. Hall, the bill is basically dead.

This bill would have extended funding for several more years in key places, including science education. Hall is the ranking Republican on the House Science and Technology Committee that prepped the bill. There had been objections by Republicans on the committee to the amount of spending of the bill. The Democrat-controlled committee made some concessions in that area (shaving 10% of the spending off), but still passed the bill out of committee. The next step would be a vote on the floor of the House.

However, right before it was to go to the floor, Rep. Hall called a Motion to Recommit. Because of those weird rules I mentioned above, this meant that Congress would either have to agree to the Motion and have the bill sent back to committee — where it would die — or overrule the Motion. Now follow this carefully: part of the Motion Rep. Hall submitted was language added to the bill that said that it would prevent the government from paying salaries to employees who looked at porn on government computers.

By doing this, Hall basically bet all his chips. Hall’s move left Congress, notably Democrats, with two options: kill this much-needed bill that invests in America’s future in science and technology, or overrule a motion punishing people for downloading pornography. If they did the latter, the far right noise machine, always eager for red meat in the political arena, could then say Democrats voted to continue paying employees who looked at porn.

Facing this sort of choice, a large number of Democrats backed off. Hall’s Motion passed, and the bill went back to committee where it’s now essentially dead.

Of course, watching porn on the government’s dime has nothing to do with this bill. The only reason I can think of that this language was added is that it was a gambit where Hall wins either way: the bill dies, or Democrats put their head in the right-wing media guillotine. Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), who is the Chairman of the committee, agrees:

We’re all opposed to federal employees watching pornography. That is not a question; but that’s not what this was about… The Motion to Recommit was about gutting funding for our science agencies.

And while Representative Hall pulls this deplorable stunt, our nation is suffering mightily in scientific education. In this heart-rending post by my friend, astronomer and educator Pamela Gay, she laments how we’re letting our teachers and our children down by not funding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Read her post, then read again what Hall did.

Our future is more important than being a chip in a political game of poker. Unfortunately, in this case, Congress folded.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Politics, Science

Comments (134)

  1. I swear, these [CENSORED] won’t be satisfied until the United States is some sort of third world backwater populated by willfully ignorant rednecks…

  2. Phil,

    This might be in an overreaction to the SEC “scandal” where a handful of employees were downloading and watching a ton of pron.

    As I said, an overreaction, but it might be more about that, than trying to kill it. Also, it’s gonna be reintroduced next week.

  3. Gus Snarp

    This is wrong on so many levels. What this representative did was wrong, the political cowardice of the House Democrats is wrong, the idea that we can’t trust the American people to know that this was just a political tactic is probably right, but it’s also wrong, and the idea that congress should be wasting it’s time punishing people for watching porn at work is wrong. Maybe next time we can put an amendment on the next defense authorization bill that would prevent the government from prosecuting child molesters. There really needs to be some sanity to just what can be tacked on a bill.

  4. Oops, after reading some more links, I retract my previous comment.

  5. Shane, I haven’t seen that it will be introduced again. That would be very unusual after a Motion to Recommit. Do you have a link?

  6. A beautiful example of nursery school mentality.
    I will contact my congressmen to show support of the dying bill (at least the science/tech part). I don’t know that it will help, but at least its better than being just angry.

  7. Phil,

    It was toward the end of the link you posted:

    “Democrats pulled the bill off the floor after the motion passed and promised to introduce it again next week. ”

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/05/gop-kills-science-jobs-bill-by-forcing-dems-to-vote-for-porn.php

  8. sisu

    Wow. Now this isn’t as funny as it was back in ’95:

    Congressman: Wait a minute, I want to tack on a rider to that bill: $30 million of taxpayer money to support the perverted arts.
    Speaker: All in favor of the amended Springfield-slash-pervert bill? [everyone boos]
    Speaker: Bill defeated. [bangs gavel]

  9. Furthermore, we are going to jail anybody who persists in the heretical notion that the earth revolves around the sun!

  10. usagi

    @Shane: Not to mention that it appears most of the instances of “porn surfing” at government offices have been caused by trojans or other malware (that, or in the last reported incident a dozen workers were mouse clicking on a porn site every 20 seconds for six months at a stretch). The “problem” doesn’t actually exist. And if it did, the solution is an administrative one, not altering the law to deny funding (which means that in order to receive funding, labs must set up monitoring to prove their workers aren’t looking at porn, which in turn pulls resources from their primary mission).

  11. Ad Hominid

    I was just musing about how closely this matches the “ignorant but powerful luddite” characters who have featured in a lot of science fiction over the years.
    I’ve been reading SF since about 1955 and I have seen a great many of its fictional elements become real. I would prefer that this one had remained fiction.

  12. Dave

    Bah, I live just outside this idiot’s district. Not that I would have voted for him in the first place. He’s an example of a real political opportunist. He’s been in congress since 1980 and in 2004 when the political winds of Texas shifted, he switched party affiliations to hold onto his seat. A true example of the problem with American politics.

  13. Alexander van Houten

    I would honestly be surprised if at some point in time some one on a government computer did not look at porn. To make what is likely a few bad apples into the cause for killing a bill is nuts. If people are taking their personal vices with them too work then it should be handled on a case by case basis in the office in question.

  14. Darth Wader

    “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, democracy simply does not work” -Kent Brockman, Bart’s Comet

  15. Cheyenne

    Phil – Why would it be unusual to re-introduce a bill after sending it back to committee? That happens all the time. And maybe I read this too hastily but why are you saying it’s “now essentially dead”?

    Hall used a tactic that both sides have used repeatedly (although using “porn” is, well, a little more novel), they’ll mark it up a bit, send it back out, and eventually some form will pass. It came out of committee with a 29-8 margin and it’s a good overall bill. I’d feel pretty good about betting on this one getting through the sausage factory. Might even be next week.

  16. And we wonder why whenever legislation is introduced to remove riders and tactics such as this, it’s shot down before there’s even a chance to vote on it.

  17. John Keller

    I work for a government contractor and we use government computers. If we are caught looking at porn (let alone downloading porn) we are terminated without notice. In other words, this provision already exists.

  18. Hilton

    The thing that absolutely baffles me is that my company, which is by no means a Fortune 500 company, has no problems with employees looking at porn on the company dime. First, we’d get fired and second, it is completely blocked on company computers. How is it so difficult for these other companies to set up filters on their network? The fact that a valuable bill was squashed because of something so trivial that is easily fixed sickens me.

  19. Kirk

    What kind of legislative system do we have that a single member can say to the majority, in effect, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

    and GET AWAY WITH IT??

  20. jaranath

    I agree, Phil, but I save some of my venom for the dems. Yeah, they were handed a stinker, but I think part of stopping this kind of stunt is having the backbone to ignore it.

    Alexander @ 12: It does indeed happen. In my own gov agency, at least two employees wound up in Big Trouble for porn. One, who I knew slightly, was viewing child porn. It’s such a remarkably stupid thing to do, especially in the context of regular warnings from IT staff about usage, that I have to think they had psychological problems (well, duh, at least when it comes to being into child porn in the first place). So even if deterrent bills helped, I think you’d still have some, like these.

  21. In general, these rules have evolved to make sure that the majority doesn’t stomp on the minority, and the minority still has a voice.

    Having followed Ezra Klein for a couple of years, I no longer believe this to be true. For example, the history of the filibuster is fascinating, but seems to have very little to do with protecting minority rights.

  22. I’ll add I’m not happy with the Dems. If they had the spine, and the PR ability, they’d call this guy to the carpet, overrule his Motion, and specifically condemn him for it in the press. They are so terrified of the people like Beck and his ilk they jump at their own shadow. All they need to do is take control of the framing, but they never seem to do it.

  23. JerWah

    Someone else might want to read up on the tactic used…

    http://www.rules.house.gov/archives/recommit_mot.htm

  24. John N-G
  25. Ray

    I’m a little fuzzy on this one. Presented with a bill that would fund science AND punish people who surf porn at work, the Dems elected to let it fail. Why? Don’t they like science? Don’t they want to punish people who surf porn at work?

  26. Kirk

    “… All they need to do is take control of the framing, but they never seem to do it.”

    because, unlike the Repubs, the Dems aren’t so good at goose-ste… er, lock-stepping.

  27. the far right noise machine … could then say Democrats voted to continue paying employees who looked at porn

    The far-right noise machine can still say that. It’s not like the machine’s primary feature is accuracy, nor is it targeted toward people who look stuff up.

    Leave it to the Democrats to once again cave into pressure from people who will demonize them and never, ever vote for them no matter what they do. I blame them for this, 100%. Pathetic.

  28. Chip

    I’m sure some day China would be happy to congratulate their allies: U.S. Congressman Ralph Hall (R-TX), the Republican Party and those Democrats in Congress who are spineless for their efforts to repress science education in America thereby allowing China to eventually forge ahead in science and technology.

  29. Steve in Dublin

    I’m a little fuzzy on this one. Presented with a bill that would fund science AND punish people who surf porn at work, the Dems elected to let it fail.

    That’s not the right way to look at it, and it didn’t come out in the BA’s article, but the situation was more like this: the republicans added a last minute ‘rider’ to the bill that said that government employees convicted of surfing for porn would have their salaries withheld. Then they recommended that the bill be sent back to committee for re-evaluation. The only way to avoid having it sent back to committee (and thus move the bill forward) was for the house to have the rider struck off. In other words, they would have had to be seen voting *in favour of employees watching porn on government time* in order to save the bill. Clearer now?

    We need the legislative procedure amended so that a bill can only address a *single issue*. Some states already have this sort of rule in place.

    As pointed out by the BA and several readers though, the dems could have had the courage to vote the rider down and then made sure the public understood the sneaky, slimy tactic that scumbag Hall tried to use.

  30. Perhaps people should lower their expectations of Democrats. They’re just as political and slimey as Republicans.

  31. Another way of seeing it fro the dems is, vote for it and be seen as allowing big brother to snoop into peoples lives or vote no and be seen as allowing porn at work.

  32. Chas, PE SE

    Admittedly I’m not looking too deeply at this issue (no time) but I have yet to see any explanation as to why Rep. Hall wanted to defund science, by embarrassing the Dems. Wassup?

  33. kevbo

    Oops. All I saw was “Texas congressman uses porn”, and thought “so what else is new?”

    I suppose this IS a new way for them to use porn…

  34. Nicholas in PA

    Maybe the plot was not quite as obvious as you think. Maybe the congressman and/or members of his staff are worried about what will happen to their pay when their own porn surfing habits come to light. So they added a little insurance to a popular bill hoping that it would pass without notice. :)

    I would agree that this probably has more to do with the SEC than it does science. This bill was probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time when someone wanted to send a message.

  35. Your Name Here

    So many things going through my head right now…

    I leave it at just one.

    Ralph Hall: A serious contender for the ‘stupidest move by a politician ever’ award.

    He’s just like a Mr Burns, really…

  36. Cheyenne

    I’m surprised another part of the MTR language wasn’t brought up-

    · Providing special consideration to schools that make STEM programs available to disabled veterans and to schools chartered to serve disabled students;

    If Democrats overrode it they could have been painted as not only “pro” pornography but against disabled veterans and students. That would be the real hurt. I could imagine some 30 sec ads exploiting that pretty effectively.

    @John G – The National Science Foundation guy that was fired for surfing porn for 331 days had the best defense I’ve ever heard. “..suggesting that he frequented the porn sites to provide a living to the poor overseas women”.

    “He explained that these young women are from poor countries and need to make money to help their parents and this site helps them do that,” investigators wrote in a memo. ”

    That is noble work!

  37. Phil B

    Welcome to Texas. Please set your watches back 300 years.

  38. Peter

    Well, I’m not an American, but from the other side of the Atlantic I’ve long had the impression that in Texas the gene pool of humans and cattle have mixed. Mr Hall’s actions do not take away that impression.

  39. BracesForImpact

    Everyone just wait six months or so. Ralph Hall will probably be caught watching gay porn on his government issued laptop. He is a Republican after all.

  40. Ian M. Fallon

    I would like to add as a government employee, I am already forbidden from looking at porn on my work computer. My computer’s activity is logged and if I were to go to a porn site it would likely be discovered. In addition, there are firewalls in place to prevent me from going to unapproved web-sites; including but not limited to porn, gambling, sites that advocate violence against minorities, etc. Lastly, every year we have to go through computer “training” where they remind us what we are and are not allowed to do with our computers at work. Now I’m in the Coast Guard so the controls are probably stricter than on civilian systems, but really, do we really need a bill to enact the same controls on civilian systems? Especially when attached in such a dishonest manner?

  41. Col

    Going on the photo of scumbag Hall, in a few more years he will be basically dead also.

  42. Chris

    Really then the Democrats should put provisions in Republican bills in favor of abortion. Argh why are politicians such idiots? Phil Plait for President, no wait Emperor!

  43. Just me

    @1:

    As someone who lives & works in a “third world backwater”, I have to take exception to the insinuation. This is a wonderful place, and I have a wonderful life here. Not perfect, granted, and we don’t have the “modern” infrastructure that you Americans enjoy, but we find ways to make it work. There’s no where else I’d rather be than where I am now. Just sayin’.

    Sorry, I get touchy when I see pejorative references to “the Third World”…

  44. @ Peter #39:

    Well, I’m not an American, but from the other side of the Atlantic I’ve long had the impression that in Texas the gene pool of humans and cattle have mixed

    That, sir, is a slap in the face of every humble cow in Texas! Ah demand satisfaction! (Admittedly, an odd thing to demand in a post about porn….)

  45. M Burke

    Yes, everything that conservatives, Republicans and/or Christians do or believe are immoral… oh wait there’s no such thing as morality in a naturalistic worldview. Given your worldview, why is it wrong to do whatever one wants to achieve a desired result? And you scoff at hypocritical Republicans.

  46. MadScientist

    Well, that’s one redneck the Texans should throw out of office. Ah, for the good ol’ days when you could give him a horsewhippin’ for being an idiot. His idiot additions are not even supportable in law, and what the hell is he doing putting a penal rider into an appropriations act? I bet he’s proud that good ol’ Americans aren’t getting much needed financial support from the government. Tell the world that Hall is killing American jobs – he’s obviously an insider working for foreign governments.

  47. Republicans love them some of that there porn!

  48. Justin

    If that’s how they want to play, fine. The Dems should just start adding Gay Rights to every gun bill and military spending bill that comes up. The high road is over-rated.

  49. Jack Mitcham

    Meanwhile, in the very same Congress, they’re seeking to throw billions of dollars at the Pentagon that the Pentagon doesn’t even want! Secretary Gates wants to cut funding to some military hardware he feels is of little use, but congress doesn’t want to end those programs.

    You’d think Gates would know better than some congresscritters.

  50. Astrofiend

    What a creep – hopefully he gets cancer and dies soon.

    I thought the political system in Australia was bad, but holy mother of arsitude, America’s is downright rooted. It seems specifically designed to be taken advantage of and manipulated. What kind of a system could allow one person to append some BS passage to a bill that it is completely unrelated to, and effectively torpedo the will of the majority and something so important?

    America: DOOMED.

  51. Muzz

    From my cursory fur’ner reading it looks like a stall tactic that’ll set things back a week or so, hopefully. Is that right?
    Indeed it seems so transparently a PR/stall tactic there should be some tweak to the house rules; once the motion is put the commitee gets to reconvene in the corridor right now and assess whether the instructions are basically Wikipedia vandalism, toss them and put it back before the house immediately. At least then the minority has to concoct stalls that seem more relevant to the bill in question.
    Although there’s probably a few dimensions I’m not seeing.

  52. sammyb

    The whole issue makes me wonder how much porn Rep. Hall himself watches on the taxpayer dime. Those who make the most noise about an issue, usually are linked to the issue. The following are just the tip of the iceberg when you include fundamentalist christians, mormons, and so on and the religious practices that allow them to marry young girls, physically and sexually abuse their children, and abuse their wives singular or plural. A friend of mine who was a volunteer Sheriff in Whatcom County, WA told me how amazed he was to show up at the homes of Lynden, WA Dutch Reformed Church wealthy elites over domestic and other abuse issues. Even though they are not “drinkers” he picked many up on DUI. He observed the regular sexual trysts of others. So much for the so-called chosen of god and their morality. But, as they explain, they are forgiven because the bible tells them so.
    * 1.1 Aimee Semple McPherson, 1920s–40s
    * 1.2 Lonnie Frisbee, 1970s–1980s
    * 1.3 Billy James Hargis, early 1970s
    * 1.4 Marjoe Gortner, early 1970s
    * 1.5 Jim & Tammy Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, 1986 and 1991
    * 1.6 Peter Popoff, 1987
    * 1.7 Morris Cerullo, 1990s
    * 1.8 Mike Warnke, 1991
    * 1.9 Robert Tilton, 1991
    * 1.10 W. V. Grant, 1996 and 2003
    * 1.11 Roy Clements, 1999
    * 1.12 John Paulk, 2000
    * 1.13 Paul Crouch, 2004
    * 1.14 Douglas Goodman, 2004
    * 1.15 Kent Hovind, 2006
    * 1.16 Ted Haggard, 2006
    * 1.17 Paul Barnes, 2006
    * 1.18 Lonnie Latham, 2006
    * 1.19 Gilbert Deya, 2006
    * 1.20 Richard Roberts, 2007
    * 1.21 Earl Paulk, 2007
    * 1.22 Coy Privette, 2007
    * 1.23 Thomas Wesley Weeks, III, 2007
    * 1.24 Michael Reid, 2008
    * 1.25 Joe Barron, 2008
    * 1.26 Todd Bentley, 2008
    * 1.27 Tony Alamo, 2008
    * 1.28 George Alan Rekers, 2010

  53. sammyb

    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_evangelist_scandals

    I am sure the good congressman is pulling a Swaggart. :)

    Jim & Tammy Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, 1986 and 1991

    In 1986, evangelist Jimmy Swaggart began on-screen attacks against fellow televangelists Marvin Gorman and Jim Bakker. He uncovered Gorman’s affair with a member of Gorman’s congregation, and also helped expose Bakker’s infidelity (which was arranged by a colleague while on an out-of-state trip).[3] These exposures received widespread media coverage. Gorman retaliated in kind by hiring a private investigator to uncover Swaggart’s own adulterous indiscretions with a prostitute.[4] Swaggart was subsequently forced to step down from his pulpit for a year and made a tearful televised apology in February 1988 to his congregation, saying “I have sinned against you, my Lord, and I would ask that your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God’s forgiveness.”[5][6]

    Swaggart was caught again by California police three years later in 1991 with another prostitute, Rosemary Garcia, who was riding with him in his car when he was stopped for driving on the wrong side of the road. When asked why she was with Swaggart, she replied, “He asked me for sex. I mean, that’s why he stopped me. That’s what I do. I’m a prostitute.”[7]

  54. I blame the Democrats – the Opposition (or whatever you call it outside of the Westminister system) will always try to throw a wrench in the works to score points. The Democrats shouldn’t have left their balls in their other suit pants and actually passed the bill. All that they’ve done is encourage more Republicans to use slimeball tactics to stall or kill bills that they don’t want passed.

  55. Steve G

    It’s not like this sort of thing doesn’t occur on both sides of the aisle.

    Frankly, at this point, they shouldn’t be passing ANY bills that spend a single penny more until they make some significant spending cuts. Want more money for science? Then friggen cut some of the other BS! Didn’t our parents teach us that money doesn’t grow on trees? Well Congress seems to think it does, so long as they process it to the point they can run the stuff through a printing press. If something doesn’t change, we are going to end up like Greece, people… http://lesterhhunt.blogspot.com/2010/05/real-greek-tragedy.html

  56. Randy A.

    Larian LeQuella (at 12:47 pm) said: “I swear, these [CENSORED] won’t be satisfied until the United States is some sort of third world backwater populated by willfully ignorant rednecks…”

    Well, every time I turn on the TV, I see more evidence that we already ARE a third world backwater populated by willfully ignorant rednecks.

    This news supports that hypothesis.

  57. RM

    In other news … LEFT-WING socialist/lunatic Ted Turner proclaimed that the recent oil spills and coal mine disasters were a message from God.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2010/05/17/ted-turner-the-bp-spill-might-be-a-message-from-god/

    Just the kind of thing we’d read on an Astronomy blog…..if it came from a Republican.

    Cheers BA.

  58. RM (#58): Oh, you have cut me to the quick, sir. And it would be the kind of thing I would write about… had I heard about it before I saw your comment. Incidentally, there have been a lot of dumb comments about the oil spill, but I haven’t written about any of them yet, thus mitigating your concern somewhat.

  59. CB

    I was under the impression that this happens all the time. That’s why in 2004 John Kerry said “I voted for the bill before I voted against it” as if that was the most natural thing in the world. And recently, in order to pass health care reform via reconciliation, democrats had to take all kinds of crazy stances like supporting the right of pedophiles to use Viagra. Congressman don’t always cave when this tactic is used.

  60. Beelzebud

    Hey RM remind me when Ted Turner has power over anything.

    If you want to go there, try explaining why Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck attempted to blame the oil spill on environmentalists…

    BTW. You need to go read up on what socialism is, because the idea that a self-made billionaire like Turner is a socialist, is a total joke. Do you even realize how stupid you sound by applying that label to him?

  61. I'd rather be fishin'

    The things I miss when I go to work as a science teacher: science = porn (no one tell my school board or I am in deep bovine excrement again) and socialist = multimillionaire.

    As a non-American, can someone tell me who decides what senator or congressman sits on what committee? I am going to assume knowledge of the committee’s area of concern is optional.

  62. complex field

    I wrote to my congressman:

    As an American and your constituent, I am deeply disturbed by the antics of Congressman Ralph Hall in his Motion to Recommit the 2007 America COMPETES Act.

    Such blatant politicization of science has no place in a rational society.

    Please support the reauthorization of the 2007 America COMPETES Act.

  63. ccpetersen

    Let’s see, isn’t this dirtbag from Texas from the same party that pays for its members to go to B&D clubs on the taxpayer dime? Hey RM, wanna explain that one? Or the sex trips that Limbaugh took to third world countries with a bottle of somebody else’s Viagra in his pockie?

    This crud from the R party really shouldn’t be a surprise anymore. Really. They just keep pulling this crap because they think it makes ‘em look all manly. Instead, they’re tearing down the country.

  64. RM

    Beelzebud (#60): You’re right. Left-wing lunatic would have sufficed. However, CNN is owned by Turner Broadcasting, so therefore Ted Turner has a fair amount of power over something, I would imagine. But, thank you for the epithets.

    BA (#59): Thanks BA. I enjoy reading about the dopey TexArkanan flat-earthers who want to teach our kids that life began 6,000 years ago as much as the next guy, but I’m still hopeful that one day you’ll apply your math and physics background to calculate the ballistic trajectory of vehicle of state, which is clearly headed toward an economic cliff. Our country is dead broke, inflating a zero-interest government bubble, completely and mortally reliant on the Chinese to continue buying our debt (which we can never pay back), and none of that includes the fact that Social Security (a Ponzi scheme in the purest definition) is now at the point where Bernie Madoff had to turn himself in. If we continue on our current trajectory, the United States won’t be here to watch the polar ice caps melt. So, despite the fact that you’re wasting your free time laughing at the funny people on the USA Titanic, I still enjoy reading your blog. Cheers again. )

  65. Rodentia

    “Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad”

    I guess his number is being called.

    *sigh*, I miss the America that sired Sagan, not the one that gives us this.

  66. M Burke goofily sez:

    Yes, everything that conservatives, Republicans and/or Christians do or believe are immoral… oh wait there’s no such thing as morality in a naturalistic worldview. Given your worldview, why is it wrong to do whatever one wants to achieve a desired result? And you scoff at hypocritical Republicans.

    Says WHO there is no morality in a naturalistic world view? Only if you believe morality is some sort of edict handed down from on high. Some of us naturalistic world viewers know otherwise: morality is a human invention; always has been, always will be. Furthermore, we shape and reshape it all the time to meet the needs of a constantly evolving society.

    Sacrificed any goats lately?

    Thought not. Immoral abomination.

  67. The Panic Man

    Man, Repubs get seriously butthurt when you point out their BS. Then they go off on pointless tangents and crap up the place.

    RM, do yourself a favor and shut your ignorant wordhole while you’re behind. Or better yet, just change your name to “BM” – far more appropriate.

  68. alfaniner

    Why do these boobs always have an “(R-)” next to their names?

  69. Mike

    As someone coming from outside the US I can only applaud this motion! Every time someone cuts your competitiveness it means we get the upper hand. Are you sure this Senator is not a double-agent in Chinese payroll?

  70. Beelzebud

    RM once again you show your ignorance. Ted Turner has nothing to do with CNN or Turner Broadcasting at this point. His last affiliation with Turner Broadcasting was over 10 years ago. He founded the company, merged it with Time Warner, and then cashed in.

    So again, you whine about a private citizen, who has no power in government, and no power in the news media. You label him a lunatic and a socialist, and then whine about me using an epithet on you, without a hint of irony. If the shoe fits, wear it. Calling a guy like Turner a socialist IS stupid.

    Then you display a stunning amount of ignorance by referring to Social Security as a “Ponzi Scheme”. Are you suggesting that the U.S. itself is a Ponzi Scheme? That is what it would have to be for SSI to be one. If that is the case, who is the person at the top of the pyramid?

    It’s pretty amazing how low the right-wing views their own nation these days. Ponzi Scheme? As I said earlier. Stupid and ignorant. I trust you’ll refuse your Social Security checks when they start coming in. You wouldn’t want to be stupid, ignorant, and a hypocrite would you?

  71. @ #69

    Looks like “R-” is for “Retarded-” …

  72. Jesper

    I don’t understand how this works, or how this can happen.

    Can any congressman add any kind of unrelated statement to a bill to poison it this way? If yes, then why does this not happen all the time? If no, then how was it possible with this bill?

    @30 (Steve in Dublin): “In other words, they would have had to be seen voting *in favour of employees watching porn on government time* in order to save the bill. Clearer now?”

    It’s not clear to me how having the rider struck off implies a vote in favour of employees watching porn on government time. Can’t they just say “we stike off the rider because it has nothing to do with the content of the bill”?

  73. Szwagier

    There are no polite words to describe Congressman Hall and his actions. Is there any way to censure him?

  74. Astrofiend

    Oooooh – I love it when it gets personal. Wait ’til I get a snack and a beer – back soon…

  75. Astrofiend

    …Back. Continue…

  76. Yet one more example of why we need DownsizeDC’s One Subject at a Time Act: http://www.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/83

    Write to Congress!

  77. Elmar_M

    Oh well, lets look at the positive side:
    The weaker the US science education is, the better for us Europeans :)
    We win! Thanks Reps!

  78. Steve in Dublin

    It’s not clear to me how having the rider struck off implies a vote in favour of employees watching porn on government time. Can’t they just say “we stike off the rider because it has nothing to do with the content of the bill”?

    Well, that’s exactly it. It implies that they struck it off simply because they disagreed with it. The likes of Limbaugh and Beck would then have a field day with this, the subtleties of what had actually happened being lost on their mentally challenged target audience. It would be up to the dem’s PR machine to put the right spin/framing on it, to get across to the public that the Hall idiot had tried to pull off a really underhanded trick. I suppose the dems thought they wouldn’t be able to weather the storm, seeing as it’s an election year.

  79. mike burkhart

    Hear we go again !This is the way the goverment works ,this is why most people are mad at the goverment.If porn is a problem let me sugest two ideas:1Install software to block porn sites2 Say two words to employe caught on a porn site:”YOUR FIRED”.This is better then holding up a science bill.This stuff has always been happening in goverment just watch Mr Smith goes to Washington and you will see what I’m talking about.

  80. Jo Dean

    LOL look at tat dude. CLearly corrupt as the day is long. Bought and paid for.

    Lou
    http://www.web-anonymity.cz.tc

  81. Seabear70

    Well, there was a third option…

    Why not just agree to punish people surfing porn on government computers?

    Is the author defending that kind of time wasting?

  82. DennyMo

    “37. Cheyenne Says:
    I’m surprised another part of the MTR language wasn’t brought up-

    · Providing special consideration to schools that make STEM programs available to disabled veterans and to schools chartered to serve disabled students;”

    I’m glad someone else noticed that the motion was about more than just porn. For more info:
    http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getpage.cgi?position=all&page=H3455&dbname=2010_record

    BA, I thought you hated sensationalistic cherry picking? There is certainly more to this motion than you cared to draw attention to.

  83. JBHedgehog

    Just wait, he’ll start saying that homosexuality can be cured. See where that got the LAST guy.

  84. BCL1

    This is a great idea and should be used in every bill that increases governemnt spending. Maybe this would make senators think twice about approving expenditures.

  85. BCL1

    To: 76. Elmar_M

    It doesn’t matter. Nobody in the US wants to work hard and achieve in science/engineering anyway. The real jobs in this field are going to China, so why bother? Better off to becaome a quack doctor (and have a career enshrined in the government healthcare system), or an ambulance-chasing lawyer (and have a career enshrined in the government healthcare system) than to get a real job doing something that benefits society.

  86. Space Cadet

    This is sad because apparently there can’t be science without government.

  87. North

    because, unlike the Repubs, the Dems aren’t so good at goose-ste… er, lock-stepping.

    Ha ha ha! Oh, wait, you were serious! Wow! Oh, and you win the One Billionth Inappropriate Invocation Of The Nazis On The Internet for the day!

    Well, I’m not an American, but from the other side of the Atlantic I’ve long had the impression that in Texas the gene pool of humans and cattle have mixed.

    Yay! Bigotry against a whole state! Yay!

    Nobody in the US wants to work hard and achieve in science/engineering anyway.

    Yay! Broad brush declarations about one of the most diverse populations in human history! Yay!

    RM, do yourself a favor and shut your ignorant wordhole while you’re behind. Or better yet, just change your name to “BM” – far more appropriate.

    Yes! People who disagree with Mr. The Panic Man should not be allowd to speak. And super-mature bathroom humor to boot! Yay!

    You peoples am teh geniuses!

  88. Shunk

    Unfortunately Ralph Hall is my Representative…..Unfortunately this is just another idiotic move in a long line of idiotic moves by this man. I did send him a link to this article and pointed out that once again he has proven to be one of the worst congressmen in the US.

  89. Steve in Dublin

    Well, there was a third option…

    Why not just agree to punish people surfing porn on government computers?

    It’s a bit more subtle than that. You have to understand how a motion to recommit a bill works. Please see my comment at #30 for a detailed explanation.

  90. Tyler Durden

    The political process no longer works. All patriotic Americans should revolt and tear down Washington brick by brick so we can start from scratch.

  91. Harry B

    The antics of ALL politicians do little more than amuse me. And D’s & R’s are all the same. Just like any up and coming Hollywood starlet knows, _any_ publicity is good publicity. Come election time, it will be important to be able to cite your heroic work to outlaw the Evil du Jour.
    “Vote for me! My opponent fought against my efforts to prohibit Bad Things! My opponent’s record clearly shows favor for All Things Evil!”

  92. DS

    Larian LeQuella… yes, because Dems never do any sort of chicanery in any way shape or form.

  93. Eidolon

    Denny @83:

    Apparently you missed the point that the reason for including the pornography issue was to create a poison pill. If the good senator was so concerned about the STEM program for vets, why include the porn provision? Perhaps the reason for including the veterans issue is to have it both ways.

  94. Kelson

    If the democrats were smart they’d run a smear campaign on him saying he added an addendum to a bill to support people viewing porn at work….

    This is one of those things you have to make backfire.

  95. Via

    “Well, there was a third option…
    Why not just agree to punish people surfing porn on government computers?
    Is the author defending that kind of time wasting?”

    Umm… have you not bothered reading the other posts? Federal worker bees generally have more restrictions on computer and Internet use than just about any other category of employees. Government LANs are normally set up to block any sort of unapproved content, including porn. Our network even blocks any sort of video or audio feeds, to the point that they have to specifically lift firewalls if they want to run a webcast.

    Should something sneak by the firewalls, first offense is guaranteed disciplinary action, and repeat offenders are terminated. Period.

    So even though it’s already on the books, let’s pass a new law making it illegal to drink and drive. If you vote against it, then you obviously must support drinking and driving.

  96. Chris

    Just look at him. He’s old. He’ll die soon. It’s ok.

  97. JD

    We should put all these Republican morons on a boat and let it sink. Then America can finally return to its strength.

  98. Tira

    Ehp, you used the bad words, the “our nation is suffering mightily in scientific education.” words.

    Which is why only 16% of people graduating in sciences outside the medical field will be getting career jobs at some point in their lives this year, right?

    Stop taping your (badly informed) talking points to the rest of us who are trying to focus on the story.

  99. Yojimbo

    @31 Shane Brady Says: “Perhaps people should lower their expectations of Democrats. They’re just as political and slimey as Republicans.”

    Associating Good and Evil to political parties is crazy anyway. But this is not a matter of the Democrats being political – it’s a matter of them not playing politics well. They have power, but instead of weilding it they’re spending their efforts trying to avid losing it. In sports, when you have a lead and you just play to hold onto it, you’re courting disaster. The best teams play just as hard when they’re ahead.

    The Dems will eventually lose power anyway – that’s the nature of politics – but they might as well try to accomplish something while they have it. Sic Transit Gloria.

  100. Jim

    This is the first time on this website. I never knew it was such a far left thinking site.
    It is not Obama that we need to be scared of it is the people and their ideas that elected him

  101. chris

    Speaking as one who works in the legislative arena, you people have no idea what you are speaking about.

    The Motion to Recommit that would return the bill to committee, and thus kill it, was known as a Motion to Recommit promptly. The Democrats eliminated that option at the beginning of the legislative session of the 111th Congress.

    The Motion to Recommit offered by Rep. Hall was a Motion to Recommit forthwith with instructions, which would have amended the bill and returned it immediately to the floor for an up or down final passage vote.

    The problem the Dems had with the Motion to Recommit was not the porn, but that it would freeze all existing programs at the current level until the budget was balanced, contract the authorization by two years, strike all new programs in the bill, and it would apply the Soloman amendment to universities that took grants under the act.

    By voting against it, they now voted to support porn.

    In retrospect, if they had never eliminated the Motion to Recommit promptly from the Rules of the House, they might have had a more straight up and down vote.

  102. Ad Hominid

    @ 58. RM Says:

    “In other news … LEFT-WING socialist/lunatic Ted Turner….”

    Turner was essentially raised in a Christian boarding school in Georgia so there is no telling what is wrong with him. Pat Robertson went to the same school.

    Beyond that, there are possibly as many as 17 people who would take him seriously: 11 work for him and the rest are confined in various state institutions.

  103. Turboblocke

    Sic Transit Gloria Is that Latin for “my girlfriend threw up in my van”?

  104. QuietDesperation

    The antics of ALL politicians do little more than amuse me.

    Come to California. It’s not so amusing here anymore. Every day is Opposite Day in Sacramento. They literally are doing everything perfectly irrationally.

    Associating Good and Evil to political parties is crazy anyway.

    It’s sociopathy. They don’t really care about good and evil or how their actions affect anything. They have some scrap of intellect that makes them *claim* to care, but they really don’t. The utter filth in charge here in California clearly don’t care. They are just milking the system for all it’s worth, and will probably bolt when the state finally hits final bankruptcy.

  105. Tyler Durden

    @Chris (#98) “Just look at him. He’s old. He’ll die soon. It’s ok.”

    Not soon enough. That’s the problem with all these *bleep*ing incumbents, they are rich SOBs who can easily afford the highest possible standard of medical care, and continue to leech on the public for every day of their miserable lives.

  106. DennyMo

    I’d think more folks would be howling about the funding cuts in the motion than about the porn, but that discussion wouldn’t generate nearly as much site traffic…

  107. Cheyenne

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that the MTR was “cutting” funding. It was put in to reduce the proposed increases. And the NSF has itself to blame with the porn stuff. “The problems at the National Science Foundation (NSF) were so pervasive they swamped the agency’s inspector general and forced the internal watchdog to cut back on its primary mission of investigating grant fraud and recovering misspent tax dollars.” Maybe Phil could do a blog post on that? A six fold increase in violations at the NSF. Quite a story.

    Anyway, here’s what the MTR was –

    • Eliminating funding authorizations beyond 2013, saving $38.2 billion;

    • Striking the new programs in the bill, saving $1.3 billion;

    • Freezing funding for all existing programs at current levels for 2011-2013 unless there is no deficit, saving $8 billion;

    • Providing special consideration to schools that make STEM programs available to disabled veterans and to schools chartered to serve disabled students;

    • Prohibiting any Federal employee who has been disciplined for downloading, viewing, or exchanging pornographic material from receiving a salary on the taxpayer dollar; and

    • Ensuring that institutions receiving Federal funding allow military recruiters on their campuses.

    Originally $86 billion, this reauthorization represented over $22 billion in new funding above the fiscal year 2010 base level, and nearly $8 billion above the 2007 House-passed 10-year “doubling path” for the three core agencies. The MTR passed today saves a total of $47.5 billion. During Floor debate on the bill, Hall said that “Given the current state of our national economy and the fact that our nation’s budget deficit has increased 50% since the last authorization three years ago, we must be mindful of our spending if America is to continue to compete globally.”

  108. Alan Barnard

    I sometimes wonder if some of America’s problems are due to its Constitution. We (in the UK) have no written constitution and if our government could get the support of a majority in Parliament, they could do anything – both stupid and evil. In the USA, you have a Constitution – which you worship. You seem to depend far more on your Constitution to ensure that laws are reasonable and enforcement fair than you do on your democratic rights. Democratic rights carry responsibility – responsibility to vote for those who will exercise their power responsibly. As it is, you are moving towards civil war.

  109. Seabear70

    “It’s a bit more subtle than that. You have to understand how a motion to recommit a bill works. Please see my comment at #30 for a detailed explanation.”

    Ok, but in the world where I live I’d be expected to get a lot more done than that in about 10 minutes.

    Step 1. Ok, let’s send it back to committee. All Vote. Time ~1min.
    Step 2. Reconvene committee and vote. Time~5min.
    Step 3. Go back to vote on the bill. ~5min.

    Or is congress a bigger time waster than porn?

  110. Matt Beeman

    It disturbs me greatly that the bills in Congress that have become so big and convoluted that you can’t for one thing without voting against something else that you want, or vote against something without voting for something that you don’t want. I am not sure why he did it, but the Democrats knew they had to vote to send it back because they are masters at finding these sorts of things and putting them in political campaigns against their Republican counterparts. It would do you good to actually look up the references in political ads when people make statements about their opponents. I remember one in particular during the presidential campaign that said that John McCain had voted against equal pay for women, and I looked it up. The vote had nothing to do with guaranteeing equal pay, it had to do with the limitations on litigation and reimbursement if it was found that pay was not equal because of gender, race, or sexual orientation. This is an age where you really have to do your research considering political candidates, because you can’t even believe their own commercials.

  111. Lizard

    I’m taking a collection to purchase Rep. Hall a year-long subscription to the fine German “photography” magazine, “Wiener Und Scheide”. Please send PayPal donations to:

    rmhall@mail.house.gov

    Oh, and please include extra Kleenex and a tub of body butter and give a salute with your pork sword to the great state of Texas.

  112. Silverlock

    Go here to see how your own representative(s) voted on the motion to recommit:

    http://politics.nytimes.com/congress/votes/111/house/2/270

    and if they fall in the Yes column then please write to him/her/them and express your displeasure in a civil, reasoned manner.

  113. Matt

    I have a question.

    Why is the bill essentially dead just because it goes back to committee?

  114. Francisco Boni

    Congratulations America, half of your country wants to return to the Dark Ages

  115. Art

    Your article condemed Ralph Hall but you did not state the facts of his charges. Your article seems to be a media drive by hit piece stating only how unfair it is to cut off funding for America Compeats. And it is amazing to see all the sheeple align with their supporting comments of your article when they do not know the facts. And what actually have been the fruits of this America Competes Act. What kind of bang are we citizens getting for our hard earned tax dollars? Please step up the integrity of your reporting so as not to lead the sheeple down the coolaid path.

  116. Boyce-terous

    Being a politician is no different than any other job. In all our jobs, we do as we are told in order to continue to obtain a pay check. In our modern cooperate capitalistic society no one is truly “The Boss.” Everyone must answer to someone for their actions. To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, everyone acts with their “Boss,” and in most cases “Bosses,” reaction in mind. Even Ted Turner answers to someone, though I’m not quite sure what he has to do with this. It’s tricky, if not impossible, to correctly act on someone else’s behalf. On one hand politicians have it good because they don’t have to worry about a day to day loss of their job due to poor performance. They’re locked in for a set term. On the other hand, they must be re-elected by a majority of their peers, Boss#1, to maintain that grossly over-abundant paycheck.

    You can say that the Democrats acted like cowards for not standing their ground on this bill, but I believe they won the battle. I’ll sleep better knowing Bill O’Reilly can’t air that the “Democrats are pro-porn,” which is exactly what his flock of blind followers, as well as Hall, want and would sadly believe. And even better, now Hall is standing alone in the spotlight looking like the pre-evolutionary poop-flinger that he is. Though, he’ll probably be re-elected by Texan’s, simply because he has an “R” next to his name, I’m happy to know his decrepit old bag of bones will soon wither from existence. I just wonder if that lead to him becoming a sacrificial lamb for the Republican Party, Boss#2, just a disposable pawn in their game to feed anti-Democrat propaganda.

    However, I’m confused as to how this man ever became a member of the House Science and Technology Committee. I would be really interested to see the credentials that qualified him for this position. Did he know Galileo? More likely, he knew a fellow Texan with the last name Bush (Junior, Senior, or their Nazi Grandfather). Does a pacemaker still count as technology? More likely he knows how to surf the web to satisfy his severer addiction to porn. Because he obviously has no interest in furthering neither science, nor technology.

    If this ignorant ploy stuck in the Majority’s craw, like it stuck in mine, we will see this bill come to light again.

    Edward Gardener said, “It’s not what you take but what you leave behind that defines greatness.”
    I hope Representative Hall will witness his legacy just before his timely death. He stood for the plight of the porn addict, the decline of American education, and the large estate that he left to the Federal Government because he is sooo concerned about the National Debt.

  117. Dean

    @120/Art, the point is to INVEST IN THE FUTURE, which by definition suggests that the “bang” for the buck will not be seen in the immediate timeframe.

    If we have to decide between teaching kids the skills and knowledge they need to work in the world today, and those that are not anchored to a particular time/place, shouldn’t we be looking with some interest at the longer-term investment opportunities?

    Something to keep in mind, at least….

  118. Lars

    When your country slides into anarchy and chaos, I hope you will remember that man’s face.

    Now, personally I can’t wait: I live in a fairly stable welfare state where the right wing hasn’t managed to ruin everything yet, but their efforts are clearly inspired by how the USA “works”. The sooner your country gives up and rolls over on its back to die, the sooner they’ll run out of steam. I hope.

  119. I just hope the language of his addition to the bill shows up in his opponents’ campaign ads where it belongs.

    “Do you want a representative who wrote legislation that would make it okay for federal employees to surf for porn AT WORK?

    [center frame: picture of exact wording of Hall amendment to America COMPETES, slowly zooming in to POV independent of background]

    “That’s exactly what Ralph Hall wrote, word for word. And the amendment killed a bill to fund science and math improvements–something the United States desperately needs to remain competitive.

    [center frame: teacher erasing equations from a blackboard and then turning to POV, shrugging shoulders]

    [lower left frame: students with question marks over their heads, dissolving to shot of office worker at lower right, facing us from 7/8 angle, leering at glowing computer screen]

    “Republican Ralph Hall. Anti-science. Pro-workplace porn.”

  120. Paul Dirac

    I gotta give props, that was a pretty cunning move.

    Democrats don’t play dirty enough.

  121. Shunk W

    This is MY Rep…..He biggest campaign noise is about his war record from 50+ years ago….He’s not completely useless….He can always be used as a bad example as was done in this article.

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