- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pork for the poor

Is pork for the poor the sort of fatty government spending everyone is supposed to hate? The Obama administration hopes not.

Government contracts for canned meats and hams, paid with millions worth of stimulus money made available on Recovery.gov, sure looked porky to Matt Drudge. He highlighted a handful of them on his highly trafficked Drudge Report as a means of criticizing the spending.

Those purchases included more than $16 million for canned pork from the Wisconsin-based Lakeside Foods Inc. and other contracts worth more than $3 million that went to the California-based Clougherty Packing for hams.

But the Obama administration said critics were too quick to judge the merits of the spending by just skimming the contract. The Department of Agriculture issued a statement explaining that those meats were purchased to feed the hungry via food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens.

The $787 billion stimulus bill was passed earlier this year for the purpose of jump-starting the economy and job creation. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack maintains that the pork purchases are in line with that goal.

“While the principal purpose of these expenditures is to provide food to those hardest hit by these tough times,” he said, “the purchases also provide a modest economic benefit of benefiting Americans working at food retailers, manufacturers and transportation companies, as well as the farmers and ranchers who produce our food supply.”

John Hart, a spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, and a longtime fiscal-conservative critic of pork spending, isn’t buying it.

“Few things would benefit low-income families more than having Washington join in the real world of fixed budgets and tough choices,” he said. He mentioned billions of dollars for other stimulus bill projects he considers wasteful, such as $2 billion for the “FutureGen” power plant in Mattoon, Ill.

“Congressional leaders have no interest in sharing their pork with those less fortunate,” Mr. Hart said. “These examples show yet again that stimulus funds are not being used for job creation but are subsidizing Congress’ refusal to make tough choices and prioritize spending.”

Hairdresser gets even

Don’t even try to come between a woman and her hairdresser - especially if that woman happens to be Gov. Sarah Palin.

Coiffeur Jessica Steele, of Beehive Beauty in Wasilla, Alaska, says she never told the New York Times that the governor’s hair was thinning from stress, as the Old Gray Lady’s reporters wrote in a July 12 story.

The story said, “Friends worried that she appeared anxious and underweight. Her hair had thinned to the point where she needed emergency help from her hairdresser and close friend, Jessica Steele.” The article quoted Ms. Steele as saying, “Honestly, I think all of it just broke her heart.”

That all didn’t go over very well at the Beehive in Wasilla. Ms. Steele says she never said anything about Mrs. Palin’s hair thinning.

“Really torqued at the NYT” she blasted in a nearly all capital letters message to her Twitter account.

Other commentators have used the New York Times’ claim about Mrs. Palin’s thinning hair as evidence she couldn’t handle the daily attacks made on her and her family. “Palin’s hair was thinning at such an alarming rate due to stress that her beautician staged an intervention,” Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift wrote, linking to the story.

Not true at all, says Ms. Steele. “Media is so desperate to attack Sarah Palin, they are saying lies about her hair!” Ms. Steele said on her Twitter account.

“I am her hairdresser! U will not use me in a lie media!” she wrote with extra capital letters and exclamation points.

She continued Tweeting, “If the worst thing they can come up with is a lie about Sarah Palin’s hair it’s pretty pathetic and bottom feeder journalism!!” and “U don’t mess with a hairdresser and her client! It’s a precious relationship! Don’t mess with my girl Sarah Palin!”

Ms. Steele is an ardent supporter of Mrs. Palin, even selling bright-pink pro-Palin T-shirts on her salon’s Web site. The hairdresser has been credited in several other articles, including one by the New York Times last year, for helping create Mrs. Palin’s trademark updo.

Carrie’s book deal

Former Miss California Carrie Prejean has scored a book deal with a conservative book publisher to dish all the gossipy details about how the Miss USA beauty pageant treated her for standing up for traditional marriage.

Regnery Publishing said Monday it has signed a contract with Miss Prejean for her book, “Still Standing,” to be released in November 2009 - just in time for the Christmas shopping season.

“Now she will tell her side of the story, answering such questions as what happened behind the scenes at the pageant, why she answered the Perez Hilton question as she did, what really led to her losing the Miss California crown, and how she has been forced to battle the lefts double-standard on free speech and the bias against conservatives - particularly conservative women - who stand up for their beliefs,” said a statement from the publisher.

• Amanda Carpenter can be reached at [email protected] washingtontimes.com.

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