Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Here, Let Me Hold Your Wallet and We'll Talk About Whatever Pops Up..."

Photo Credit: The Peoples Cube

Ah, spring returns once again to the northeast.  Backyard hostas reclaim their place above the soil round ye olde maple tree, the snow turns to rain, and yet another story of wasted 'Stimulus Spending' blinks its way into the light of day.  The cycle restarts, the circle of life begins anew, and as yet another garden rock is moved, revealing the slimy / wiggly white things which live beneath it.

Just another spring day.  Just another morning.  Just another story of mis-placed government 'stimulus'.  Just be careful that you don't get 'all excited' about it, okay?

Yes, today is ALL about stimulus.  Just HOW stimulatin' will it get? 

We'll get there, I promise.

Remember 'back in the day' when we were told that we had to spend a lot of money to keep from going bankrupt?  Well, I do.  And remember when the long-term survival of our Nation was contingent upon our ability to create shovel-ready jobs?  And remember when we were told that "Joanie loved Chachi"? 

Did we ever stop to ask 'Why'?  No, we didn't, because we trusted Joe Biden, President Obama (well, some did, at least), and we trusted the people who thought a "Happy Days" spin-off with Erin Moran would ACTUALLY be a good idea.  (Seriously, what were they thinking?)  

Oh well, ancient history right?  Well, maybe not...

As reported today at 6:17am EST (you may want to buy a Lottery ticket today as this story was posted by NBC - yes, there's something special about this day):

May 16, 2012, NBC Online:   The NBC Investigative Unit has raised questions about two grants totaling nearly $1.5 million dollars distributed to the University of California San Francisco. The money was part of the federal stimulus program and went to studies into the erectile dysfunction of overweight middle aged men and the accurate reporting of someone's sexual history.

This is part of our ongoing series of investigations by the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit into who got federal stimulus dollars, and why some projects did not break ground more than two years after receiving the grant.

The Investigative Unit looked closely at the federal government's decision to spend nearly $1.5 million dollars of taxpayer money, money that came here to California. Grant number 1R01HD056950-01A2 was among the thousands of grants funded, receiving $1.2 million dollars. This grant studied how to improve the accuracy of how people responded to questions about their sexual history.

"If you honestly report on your sexual activity and number of partners?" Scott Amey with asked with a sigh. "That's a good one."


NBC Bay Area talked to the University of California San Francisco, the institution that received the grant. "Does it make you wonder a little bit, stimulus money for a study like this?" Kovaleski asked Jeff Sheehy, who works at the UCSF Aids Research Center. "No it doesn't," he answered. "Because to my mind we save money if we get better health outcomes."

According to the grant, a good portion of the study will "Improve the accuracy of responses to questions," specifically questions about a person's sexual behavior. "Playing devil's advocate," Kovaleski said to Sheehy, "Do taxpayers need to spend $1.2 million dollars to figure this out?"

"The judgment wasn't one that I was asked," Sheehy replied.
The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit discovered that for $1.2 million dollars, taxpayers funded a study that included 200 videotaped interviews at $6,000 per interview. Kovaleski asked Sheehy to justify the spending. "I think the average person is going to look at $1.2 million dollars to interview 200 people and say Wow!" Sheehy defended the study. "I understand people could look at it and have issues but this is research," he said.

Kovaleski then asked about jobs. "How many jobs did this $1.26 million dollars create?" "Well I can't really say," Sheehy said. "There were eleven researchers hired on the job, two consultants. Well I can't say. This has not been evaluated for job creation."

The number Sheehy quoted during an interview with NBC Bay Area did not match information on, the government's website for stimulus funds. According to the site, the grant produced 0.85 jobs. "It does make you scratch your head and wonder," Amey said, "Wait a second taxpayer dollars went to a sex study that barely funded less than one person."

Amey was also left questioning another UCSF grant. When asked by an NBC reporter about a study into erectile dysfunction involving overweight middle aged men he replied, "Oh boy."

The grant totaled more than a quarter million dollars. Although UCSF was willing to discuss our questions about the sexual history grant, the University declined to provide an expert to talk with the NBC Investigative Unit about the erectile dysfunction grant.

In a written statement provided they said in part, "Obesity related health issues currently cost $147 Billion per year in direct medical costs in the United States..... Health providers therefore continue to search for incentives to encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle, to benefit both individuals and society.... Preliminary analysis indicates that is is feasible to enroll men in this type of research, they successfully lose the expected weight over a 12-week period, and they see an improvement in ED symptoms..."

There's more, of course, but you can read the entire text at the story linked above. 

As for me, I have a couple of thoughts:

Thought 1:  For less than $100, I would have told researchers what they wanted to know on behalf of ALL men (and women?  Maybe...). 

In response to the question:  "How many people have you been, ahem, 'Intimate' with?   AND have you ever lied about it?"  For $97.85 I could have told them what you and I already know. 

People lie.  And, people lie for either one of two reasons.

  Reason 1a:  They want people to think that they're a 'player' making up stuff which never happened about people they never knew. 


  Reason 1b:  They don't want people to think that they're a 'slut', a 'whore', a 'trollop', or 'Sandra Fluke' (oh, THAT felt good to get one more shot at Sandra in here)...

Thought 2:  They're asking the WRONG Question. 

The correct question is:  "So, now that you're here, participating in our study, have you ever cheated on your taxes?  And if so, in which Tax Years?"

If the respondent answers THIS question 'honestly', we'll collect a whole LOT of money through IRS audits and pay for MORE stupid projects (like this one) yielding a whopping .85 jobs each. 

The problem, of course, is that most people, when asked hard questions will...  Not exactly be truthful with you (a.k.a.:  'Lie') or just make stuff up on the spot. 

You know, just like people do when you ask them how many 'partners' they've had - people will lie. 

Or, if you ask the President how many jobs his stimulus package actually created, and when.

Have a stimulating day!

Somebody owes me $  97.85.

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