The original Golden Fleece Award

William Proxmire, John McCain, and Georgia–the pieces fall into place

Not that all roads lead to Georgia, but William Proxmire’s appropriation of the Golden Fleece was a clever play on scientists imagining themselves as a latter-day Order of the Golden Fleece, and the notion of fleecing the taxpayer. But the original Golden Fleece lured Jason and the Argonauts to find it, in the land of Colchis (today, western Georgia). If you find yourself in Cambridge, England in the next few months, you’d do well to check out From the Land of the Golden Fleece: Tomb Treasures of Ancient Georgia.

Proxmire, while we’re on the subject, was a complicated figure. His fixation on pork-barrel spending, pointless as much of it is, prefigured much of today’s cant on the subject—and he didn’t, as Mark notes, distinguish between worthwhile projects (which deserved to be funded by a different mechanism) and scientific bridges to nowhere. But he was a genuine maverick, indifferent to whom he pissed off on Capitol Hill or in the Democratic Party (dairy farmers were a different story), and fought relentlessly for the causes he championed, especially the genocide treaty. And this, as I just learned from his obituary, is a legacy we could use more of today:

On the Banking Committee, he was tireless in pursuit of laws requiring lenders and credit card companies to disclose true lending rates and legislation enabling consumers to determine their credit ratings.