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The Times
  • Kent Bush: Pet projects not affected by ‘conservative’ principles

  • Are there any real fiscal conservatives? Typically, those who identify themselves as fiscal conservatives really just want to limit the money they spend on you. The money they spend on themselves and their pet projects never seems to fall into the category of waste.

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  • Are there any real fiscal conservatives?
    Typically, those who identify themselves as fiscal conservatives really just want to limit the money they spend on you. The money they spend on themselves and their pet projects never seems to fall into the category of waste.
    The National Biological and Agricultural Research Facility planned for Manhattan, Kan., seems to be one of those projects.
    Kansas is among the reddest states in the nation. Every elected official in Congress is a Republican who claimed status as a fiscal conservative.
    All of them really want to see the NBAF completed. But that would mean relocation of activities from Plum Island, N.Y., to the heartland at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Almost $50 million has already been allocated for work on the new facility on the Kansas State campus.
    Now there is outrage because the budget proposed by President Barack Obama did not contain additional funding for the new facility. Obama argued that the $50 million was not enough to begin construction on the project that some say will cost almost $1 billion after recently suggested modifications.
    Supporters like the idea because it adds good jobs to the Kansas economy.
    They also say that when Homeland Security took over the Plum Island facility after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the project was intended to be a temporary fix. They say the facility would help America protect its livestock industry.
    Moving the facility to Kansas is reportedly just part of the long-term plan. Gov. Sam Brownback said Thursday that officials inside Homeland Security have assured him the project will be completed even though “it will be a fight.”
    But this move has some interesting opponents beyond the President’s budget advisers – not the least of whom is former professional wrestler, actor, Navy SEAL and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
    Ventura has a show on Tru TV called "Conspiracy Theory." He featured Plum Island and the plan to move operations to Kansas in an episode last fall.
    In the episode, Ventura claimed Plum Island was begun by a former Nazi scientist with a biological warfare background. He also pursued persistent rumors that Lyme disease was created and accidentally released from the Plum Island labs.
    The most credible claims investigated on the show involved a confirmed accidental release of foot and mouth disease contagions from the lab in 1978.
    In the isolation on Plum Island, the leak was contained with quick action. There are concerns that a similar leak in Kansas could reach the huge livestock population the facility is designed to protect. A problem of this magnitude could cost the country as much as $50 billion.
    The most entertaining part of the episode was the investigation into claims of crossbreeding that led to two “Montauk Monsters” – strange, hairless creatures with a beak and long claws – washing up on beaches near Plum Island. There was also the report of a human with “really long fingers” and five holes drilled in his head washing up on the shore.
    Page 2 of 2 - Kansas would be a great place to host those types of research. After all, the Wizard of Oz proved that Kansans can handle strange creatures like flying monkeys. I’m sure we could also work around turtles without a shell, raccoons with a beak or people with really long fingers.
    This battle feels like we are living in Bizarro World. A congressional delegation from the reddest of red states is trying to force a big government liberal president to spend about a billion dollars on what could be a redundant laboratory.
    The idea is as shocking as seeing monkeys fly. And if the fiscal conservatives get to write the check, we just might.
    Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta (Kan.) Gazette.
     
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