Congress Accidentally Approves Arts Funding

In This Section

Vol 39 Issue 09

Abusive Husband Was Himself Abuser As Child

JACKSON, MS—Psychiatric evaluations of wifebeater Jimmy Pellett, 33, indicate that he himself was abusive as a child, doctors reported Tuesday. "Since the age of 3, Mr. Pellett has been the perpetrator of countless acts of violence against his parents, siblings, and other neighborhood children," Dr. William Traschel said. "Sadly, the beatings and emotional terror he inflicted as a child led him to more beatings as an adult. Just another textbook case of the abuser growing up to be the abuser."

'Watermelon Capital Of World' Claim Goes Unchallenged

CORDELE, GA—For the 15th year in a row, Cordele has retained the title of "Watermelon Capital of the World"—despite a clear lack of evidence that its melons are the biggest, best, or most abundant. "We really expected Knox City, TX, to step up to the plate this year and give us a run for our money," said Mona Simmons, president of the Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce. "Thankfully, they seem content just being the Seedless Watermelon Capital of the World."

White House Pretty Sure Uzbekistan Diplomat Stole A Bunch Of Soap

WASHINGTON, DC—Following a weekend visit by Otkir Halilov, Uzbekistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs, White House officials are "90 percent sure" that the visitor made off with a bunch of soap and other assorted sundries. "I don't want to start an international incident, but I'm pretty sure Otkir swiped four or five bars from one of the upstairs bathrooms," said White House chief of staff Andrew Card at a press conference Monday. "Either he wanted a souvenir or they just can't get that kind of stuff back home." Also missing were an embroidered towel, a box of Kleenex, and two miniature cans of Edge shaving gel.

Oscar Gift Bags

Each year, Academy Awards attendees take home a coveted gift bag. Among the items to be included this year:

Life After Saddam

With war imminent, President Bush and others are already discussing plans for a post-Saddam, U.S.-occupied Iraq. What do you think?

Man Offered Cocaine By Guy He Met At Urinal 90 Seconds Ago

NEW YORK—A minute and a half after using a urinal at the Manhattan hotspot Bungalow 8 Monday, Gerard Bouchard, 25, was offered cocaine by the stranger voiding his bladder next to him. "As I'm leaving the restroom, the sweat-soaked guy I was pissing next to says, 'Sure is crowded, but, hey, lots of hot chicks and you can't go wrong with that, right? Want a bump?'" Bouchard said. "I guess I didn't realize that taking your penis out near someone makes them your good friend." Bouchard declined the man's generous offer, bypassing a chance to strengthen their urinating-in-close-proximity bond.
End Of Section
  • More News
TV Listings
Just Like Everything Else!: Fox 8 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. ABC Pete's wife is still on him about building that darn shed, these kids are going to be the death of Sheila and Dave, and the hot next-door neighbor is up in EVERYBODY'S business! Sunday nights on ABC couldn't be any more familiar!

Special Coverage

Healthy Living

  • The Onion’s Guide To Gym Etiquette

    Every new year brings a surge in gym membership from new members nicknamed “resolutionists,” many of whom may be unaware that there are unspoken rules everyone must observe when working out.

Small Business

Congress Accidentally Approves Arts Funding

WASHINGTON, DC—A red-faced Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) admitted Monday that, as part of last week's $397 billion spending bill, Congress accidentally allocated $121 million to the National Endowment for the Arts.

Above: Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) react to the inadvertent $121 million arts endowment.

"We approved what?" said Frist upon learning of the inadvertent arts funding. "I don't recall putting my name on anything like that. Any funding of the arts was purely accidental. I repeat, any financial support of artists, musicians, or writers on my part was done unwittingly and unknowingly."

"That bill was more than 3,000 pages, single-spaced," Frist added. "It's pretty easy to miss something."

The 2003-04 budget bill, which passed 338-83 in the House and 76-20 in the Senate, boosted defense spending by $98 billion and pledged $27 billion in tax breaks to oil companies and other energy concerns. It also unintentionally allocated more than $120 million to "award financial assistance for projects, productions, workshops, or programs that will encourage public knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the arts."

"That wording was confusing," Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) said. "I did not fully understand what that meant. I assumed it had something to do with scientific or military research, so I voted for it. I'm sure I wasn't the only one to misinterpret that."

On Capitol Hill, countless legislators expressed embarrassment over voting for the bill, admitting that the arts funding simply slipped by them.

"I don't know how this could have happened," Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) said. "I thought I read the thing pretty carefully, but toward the bottom of page 117, those four words are right there in black and white: American Jazz Masters Fellowship."

Making the blow even more severe is the fact that the NEA will have the power to determine how the funds are distributed.

"As I understand it, not only will the government provide money for paintings and poems, it will have little say over how that money is used," Gutknecht said. "This means some limp-wristed NEA member will decide what qualifies as art rather than Congress or the president. Remind me never to skim a bill again, no matter how long it is."

Above: The new home of the Boogabong Players, an avant-garde Stowe, VT, puppet-theater troupe.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) spoke out in defense of his embarrassed colleagues.

"In those final, frantic days of House-Senate bargaining, money was flying everywhere," Bayh said. "$3.1 billion to subsidize cattle ranchers here, $1.5 billion to help states revamp their electoral systems there. I can see how, in all that chaos, $185,000 for the Dance Theater of Harlem could get overlooked."

Many citizens do not excuse the lawmakers' negligence.

"These congressmen must be held accountable," said Ronald Drake, a Lincoln, NE, hardware-store owner. "My hard-earned tax dollars will be supporting repertory theaters and art galleries—places no decent, hard-working American would ever set foot in. And then there's the museums I always hear about on the news, with the dirty photos and whatnot."

Some senators tried to defuse criticism by playing up the "many wonderful parts" of the bill.

"We need to keep this in perspective," Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) said. "Let's try to focus on the $390 million that will go toward mineral drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, rather than the $15,000 that may wind up going to some guy who wants to put on a Shakespeare play."

Added Hagel: "I can't be everywhere at once. It was [bipartisan Budget Committee member and Republican Colorado Rep. Tom] Tancredo's job to look out for things like this."

While Rep. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced the line item that grants the NEA chairperson the power to award literature fellowships, she said she never expected it to be approved.

"I always throw some doomed things in there so we have something to take out," Stabenow said. "This time, I put the arts funding in to distract everyone from the section allocating money for school-breakfast programs in low-income districts. Live and learn."

Dana Gioia, the internationally acclaimed poet, critic, and educator who was recently named NEA chairman, was "as shocked as anyone" by the financial windfall.

"I can't wait to start making calls," Gioia said. "There's a Latina artist in Los Angeles who makes these amazing multimedia collages that combine the religious iconography of her strict Catholic upbringing with photographs of horse vaginas."

Next Story

Onion Video

Watch More