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21 September 2008 @ 10:45 am
This was going to be a thinks to do post.  

But then I read dduane/Diane Duane’s link to Aaron Sorkin’s extremely excellent President Bartlett/Senator Obama interview and now I am exasperated.

I understand why it’s an issue. I understand why it keeps getting run up the flagpole. I understand that it’s a flawless example of the flip-flopping that Republicans have gotten away with time and time again while Democrats are shot down for it.

But I am goddamned tired of hearing about the Bridge To Nowhere.

Here’s the thing about that bridge. Yes. It was expensive. Yes. It was pork barrel. Yes. From almost anybody’s point of view, it was pretty literally a bridge to nowhere. It was meant to connect Ketchikan, an island city of some 8,000 people, to its own airport, which is on a separate island. Currently the way to get to the airport is via ferry.

I will not argue that this bridge appears to be an insanely frivolous use of money. Even a lot of Alaskans think so. However, Ketchikan is probably the fifth largest city in the state, and a fairly major tourist and commerce hub. In any other state (with the possible exception of Hawai’i), I suspect that it would be a no-brainer that you would both want and be able to drive conveniently to the fifth largest city’s airport.

Alaska’s geography is rather extraordinary. There are enormously large portions of the state you cannot drive to, including the state capitol. We rely on airplanes to a vastly larger degree than the rest of the country. Sitka, the fourth largest city, also has an airport on a separate island, and a bridge to it. There are maybe 9000 people in Sitka. This is another bridge to nowhere by nearly anyone’s standards, but it is of significance and importance to the people who live there.

I realize that none of this is the point brought up by pundits. Their point is either that Sarah Palin rejected the Bridge to Nowhere, or that she in fact didn’t reject it until the federal funding dried up. What she told the people of Ketchikan–words that helped her get elected governor, incidentally–was that “They weren’t nowhere to her.” (The people of Ketchikan are, by the way, apparently really pissed off at Palin now. Not because the funding for the bridge got cut, but because she changed her tune and is now singing that they *are* “nowhere”.)

And that’s why I’m tired of hearing about it. I understand that from a national perspective, Ketchikan’s the back end of beyond, that it’s a dumb place to spend a few hundred million dollars on an bridge that’s only going to be useful for a few thousand people, yadda yadda yadda. I understand that I’m shouting into the wind and I realize that until Sarah Palin was nominated as the VP candidate, at least half of America and a significant portion of the world thought Alaska was part of Canada, or possibly off the coast of California, as it is often shown in school maps. I also realize that perspective is not something found in great quantity in political discussion, but none the less, in perspective the Gravina Island Bridge project was not inherently the worst idea in the world, and I am just sick to death of seeing it slammed around the media. If the media wants to have a field day, why don’t they focus on something with substance? How about Palin’s slashing of funding for teen pregnancy programs? [eta: shadowhwk/Sarah provides a legitimate dismissal of this, proving that I should’ve thought to take the research step she did.] How about how, under her stint as Mayor, rape victims in Wasilla had to pay for their own rape kits? How about the newly-presented argument that the reason she had public safety director Walt Monegan fired was not because of an ugly divorce from her sister, but because of his “last-straw” insubordination in wanting to go to Washington to seek funding for an anti-rape program in the state with the highest per capita rate rape in the US?


Several people have asked me what, as an Alaskan, I can tell them of Alaskan politics, Sarah Palin, and the political scenario in the States right now. I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about it. Apparently that’s what I’m doing now, so I might as well keep going. I’ll spare the flist and put the rest behind a cut tag. :p

This is what I can tell you about Alaska as a state: we regard ourselves as pretty separate from the rest of the US; we refer to the rest of the States as “Outside”, “the Lower 48″, and “America”. We have a sisterly feeling toward Hawai’i, and we think Texas is too big for its britches, but not nearly big enough for ours. Alaska has, largely, two kinds of people: oil and military people who are sent there by their respective bosses, and people who have chosen to be there. The first tends to make it a fairly conservative state, because there are more of them. The latter all live in Homer, and are studiously Odd.

In general, Alaskans feel that you should mind your own goddamned business and keep your nose out of theirs. Belonging to, or supporting, or at least making muttering noises about, the Alaskan Independence Party/Alaskan independence is not even slightly outrageous. Perhaps people who actually belong to the AIP think there’s a possibility it could happen; most people do not, but nearly everybody talks about it now and again with varying degrees of sincerity. Alaska’s got badly-managed natural resources, and the state itself is being taken for a joyride by the oil companies. These, though, are not things that would be fixed by independence; they’re things that would be fixed by a state government that grew a pair. Left to their own devices, Alaskans would acquit Senator Ted Stevens, who is entirely in the oil companies’ pockets, of any wrongdoing, because he has been good for the state, and because they don’t generally feel it’s the rest of the country’s business what he’s been doing anyway.

Palin was elected governor after I left Alaska. (I do not believe there is a correlation there.) My actual personal recollection of her is as a sportscaster on one of the local news stations. I think she’s pretty, reasonably well spoken, and that Governor Frank Murkowski, who was her predecessor in office, was insanely unpopular for a variety of reasons, including having selected his own daughter, Lisa Murkowski, as his successor for his United States Senate seat, which he gave up when he was elected governor. Palin ran against Democrat and former state governor Tony Knowles, who is a tall oily man with the presence of a used car salesman. A debate or even a commercial putting the two of them against one another is the visual equivalent of Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy facing off: the pretty one is more appealing, regardless of what’s coming out of their mouths. In a state that tends towards conservatism to begin with, I think there was probably very little doubt about who would win that election.

Palin has been good for Alaska in the same way that any governor who happened to be elected at a time of record high oil prices would be. It’s not her skill: it’s sheer luck. I rather liked her at first, because she didn’t appear to take any shit: there’s been a lot of oil-money corruption exposed in the government in the last couple years, and when the Matanuska-Susitna Valley dairy company’s board of directors moved to shut it down, she–being a Mat-Su girl, and feeling the company was important to the region–replaced them with people who wouldn’t.

That’s the same tactic she used in “Troopergate”, though (and there’s something else: could we please stop calling any investigation *gate, for god’s sake? please?), and given that the federal government was doing the investigating into corruption charges, I don’t really think that can be chalked up to Palin’s willingness to take on the bad guys. Especially in light of Todd Palin refusing to respond to subpoenas now. That’s law-abiding and standing up for the right things, for sure.

I think her nomination as the Republican VP candidate is inspired. I think it’s dangerous and insane from the perspective of anybody who, for example, has a womb or knows somebody with one, but it’s inspired. McCain’s already said the campaign’s not about the issues, and if you pull a first-term governor from a state with one of the lowest US populations whose unmarried teenage daughter happens to be pregnant, you’re doing a brilliant job of distracting from the issues. Obama gave a great speech on the Thursday of the DNC. Nobody was talking about it on Friday, or for the next week, and by now it’s ancient history.

I think my friend boymonster/Cameron Banks is right when he says that he thinks the Republicans are running Sarah Palin for president. I don’t think McCain is inspiring much of anybody, but Sarah Palin is, and I think they’ve found their heir apparent in her. It will come as no surprise to anyone that I find this a completely terrifying thought, and that I believe neither the United States nor the world could afford to have that woman in office.

Alaska is a conservative state anyway; odds are very good it would vote for McCain regardless of who was nominated VP. On the other hand, it warms the cockles of my heart to hear that the Alaskan Women Against Palin rally in Anchorage evidently scored between 900 and 1500 attendees, making it reportedly the largest political rally ever held in the state. I think it’d be brilliant to see the backlash cause Alaska to go blue, though I doubt that will happen. On the other hand, for the first time in history Alaska was being discussed as a potential battleground state earlier in this campaign, so I suppose anything is possible.

I’m pretty much assuming anybody who’s bothered to read this far already knows Palin’s stance on social issues, so I don’t feel that it’s necessary to delineate why I find her an appalling, if inspired, choice for the Vice Presidential candidate. I obviously don’t have any real insight into what’s going to happen over the next six weeks and on election day; I don’t even know what’s going to happen in Alaska. I do know that I’ve registered to vote overseas, and that November 4th is going to turn into a very long night for all of us.

Good night, as they say, and good luck.

(x-posted from the essential kit)

Current Mood: cynicalcynical
charlotteu on September 21st, 2008 12:03 pm (UTC)
I didn't know a large portion of that, but then, I can't vote in America ;) Or give money, apparently, which is fair enough though the first time I've really been inspired to.

What I've never really understood, in the constant coverage of US elections in the UK, is the massive importance abortion law seems to play in the election-it always seems to be one of the critical issues. Maybe I don't understand it because our abortion law is (thankfully for the moment) fairly reasonable.
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(no subject) - mizkit on September 21st, 2008 12:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - merlinofchaos on September 22nd, 2008 05:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gows on September 24th, 2008 09:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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ramurphy on September 21st, 2008 01:42 pm (UTC)
Alaska has fewer than 675,000 people and is 550,000 square miles in area. The biggest city is Anchorage, whose population numbers around 300,000. The only other cities with populations greater than 30,000 are Juneau, the capital, and Fairbanks; and neither of them is even close to 40,000. Then there's a precipitous drop to under 10,000. There is nothing in between. Ketchikan is in fact the fourth largest city in Alaska, right after Sitka.

On a personal level I object to the term "pro-life" and "pro-abortion". I prefer the terms "pro-choice" and "anti-choice", which seem to me to more clearly define the issue.
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on September 21st, 2008 12:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you: that's the most informative piece I've read to date on Palin. Who scares me, too.
kitmizkit on September 21st, 2008 01:05 pm (UTC)
Man, if that's the most informative piece you've read on her, I should be writing more articles. I'm glad it was useful, though. I wasn't sure if anybody was going to read it. :)
Tayefethtayefeth on September 21st, 2008 12:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this. Palin terrifies me for her stance on the issues, and I'm further terrified by the fact that the Democrats don't seem to willing attack her (and McCain) on the significant issues. Unless I've missed the ads pointing out the McCain supported the Wall Street deregulation that's led to the current economic mess and his chief economic advisor Phil Gramm actually wrote that deregulation, as well as the rape and forced-pregnancy views Sarah Palin has.
dancinghorse: Neener neener neenerdancinghorse on September 21st, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
I think they're saving that for October, when it will be closer to the election and hit harder.

It's already out there in the blogosphere. The regular media will get hold of it in another couple of weeks.
wednesday childewedschilde on September 21st, 2008 01:33 pm (UTC)
we adore alaska too... even if they tend to vote conservative :::grins from the native hawaiian:::: and god, nov 4 is going to keel me ded.
Ysarn Drax: Dakotaysarndrax on September 21st, 2008 01:38 pm (UTC)
As usual Kit...right on. I was floored the morning that her candidacy for the VP spot was made public as I was driving to school at the time. It was all anyone was talking about in any class...which made me sad after hearing Obama's speech the night before, so I made sure to mention McCain's timing and chat about the speech as well in my classes. I had hear rumors that she was on McCain's short list for months, but I didn't give them any real credence. I would have bet dollars to donuts it would have been Ridge...that said....

I admit that I was kind of excited, because while I didn't believe in all her politics, it would definately get Alaska some press coverage...and that can always be fun. ;-)

Unfortunately, Palin who had been a rather good bipartisan in her relatively short stint as governor, became much more Conservative (at least in my eyes) during her acceptance speech. While she may have had all those beliefs before, it seemed like a different lady standing on that stage.

Bridge(s) to Nowhere - Totally agree with you. Although I find it funny that they don't really talk about the one linking Anchorage to Big Lake that would make the drive to the Mat-Su that much shorter. Also........they spent so much money researching that one over the years, the government could have paid for the bridge already.

Trooper-gate - Please make it stop. The gate labeling and Alaska politicians trying to step away from legal battles. I have already given up trying to count how many time Steven's lawyers have tried to get his case thrown out of court...plus Palin did say to "hold me accountable" re: the firing.

And while the Palin-furvor seems to be dieing down...it seems that the news stories talking about the new stories dieing down are still getting her more press than the other guys.
S. L. Grayshadowhwk on September 21st, 2008 03:07 pm (UTC)
I. You know my stance on Palin. I've been loud enough about it thus far that you ought to anyway.

That said, I have to call you on the funding for teenage pregnancy thing. I've heard that point repeated at least as much as the Bridge, and then I saw someone refute it and I went and looked.

Guess what? According to the budget stuff for the organization in question, she actually approved *more* money in 2007 than 2006. The document the people using it as a talking point like to link to does, indeed, show the grant slashed from 5 million to 3.9 million, which looks like a cut.

However, if you look up the numbers for the organization, I believe the amount of the grant was 1.7 million or something like that, in 2006. (Yes, I'll go find the link again in a second.) But, 3.9 is more than 1.7, obviously.

I don't like her. I am terrified that McCain's hail mary pass might just work. Do not get me started on "oh but we can see Russia" -- that's sight in to the country, not insight.

But, if we, the Other Side, are to be taken seriously, we can't perpetuate the wrong thing any more than they can.
kitmizkit on September 21st, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC)
Fair enough. I'd gone and looked, too, and had found a carefully worded memo from the mumblity House who was the recipient of the grant, but I was basing the comment on the slash from 5 to 3.9 million. It didn't occur to me to look up the 2006 funding amount. I'll edit the post. :)
(no subject) - shadowhwk on September 21st, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on September 21st, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shadowhwk on September 21st, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on September 21st, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
scbutlerscbutler on September 21st, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC)
The reason the Bridge to Nowhere is important is because it is an example of a direct lie by Palin. She is a governor who hired lobbyists to increase earmarks and federal funding in her state, and yet she claims she's against earmarks and pork barrel spending. As long as she keeps saying that, the press (and the Dems) need to call her on it.

Regarding the funding of bridges in Alaska, I'd suggest the rest of the country would be a lot more sympathetic for Alaska's building plans if the state (one of the few in the country with a budget surplus) paid for some of this itself. Rather than cut checks to individual citizens for about $2000 apiece, perhaps they could take $500MM out of that $1.2BN oil windfall and build both the Bridge to nowhere and a bridge to Sitka on their own dime.

Yeah, it's nobody's business but theirs, what they do with the rest of the country's tax dollars.
Patchchamois_shimi on September 21st, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
Iirc, they can't touch what's in the Permanent Fund. It's not part of the government budget, it's a completely separate entity that was set up with oil lease money back in the 1970s. The government regulates who gets the money, but not the existence of it. The money paid out to Alaskan residents comes from the dividends earned by the fund via investments, the principal can't be touched, by law (it's actually in the state constitution).

Now, the $1200 Alaska Resource Rebate for this year is something else entirely. Alaskans will actually be getting $3,269 this year, but the first $2,000 of that a) is guaranteed by the state constitution and b) has nothing to do with the state's current income. The other $1200 ... yeah. That seems like inappropriate budget management to me. Although with the *federal* government's idea of what constitutes kick-starting the economy, somehow I'm not surprised ... I wonder which government had the idea first? :P
(no subject) - scbutler on September 21st, 2008 08:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - chamois_shimi on September 21st, 2008 09:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scbutler on September 21st, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Azure Jane Lunaticazurelunatic on September 21st, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
From one Outside Alaskan to another, yes. This.
dancinghorse: rainbowdancinghorse on September 21st, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC)
Many thanks from 'waaaaay down here in the lowest 48 (Mexico's 50 miles thataway). That's a really good summary, and really helpful.
Lady Doom: Batgirllithera on September 21st, 2008 06:07 pm (UTC)
The part that pisses me off is it feels like I should, for some reason, be voting for Palin because she's a woman. (Which also made me mad when Hillary supporters used the same tactic on me.) Gender has nothing to do with qualification and will have very little to do with who gets my vote.

And I will now never be able to get that SNL sketch out of my head. "I can see Russia from my house!"
sammywolsammywol on September 21st, 2008 08:27 pm (UTC)
Wow! I don't know shit about Alaskan politics but those were pretty much my feelings on the topic. And I thought 'President Cheney' was a scary thought.
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Mercymercy on September 22nd, 2008 03:59 am (UTC)
As a fellow transplanted Alaskan, THANK YOU!
YES! Thank you so much for expressing all things I've been wanting to say about Palin and Alaska.
kaigou on September 22nd, 2008 05:38 am (UTC)
Excellent post, with a number of really good points. For the bridge-to-nowhere, as a former longtime DC/nearDC resident, I find the whole "nowhere" designation -- and the ridicule inside the Beltway when the porkbarreling was first revealed -- to be somewhat annoying. It seemed to me that if a state said it wanted to spend X amount of money on a bridge, given that no state in the union is truly loaded with surplus cash, then that bridge is probably pretty important. The question shouldn't be: is this bridge needed? but: should the rest of this country pay for a bridge that serves a limited population in a state with limited use by the rest of the country?

But anyway, rather than get into the whole of it, just wanted to add this before I crash off to bed: that this sentence is absolutely perfect in every way, and total epic win of wit:

We have a sisterly feeling toward Hawai’i, and we think Texas is too big for its britches, but not nearly big enough for ours.

Or maybe it's just because when I moved to Texas, another former non-Texas person warned me of the best way to really piss off a Texan. Point out to them that if Alaska were cut in half... Texas would no longer be the second largest state in the union. It'd be the third largest.

Hehehe. Ahem.
kitmizkit on September 22nd, 2008 08:30 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you. I thought that was rather clever, myself. :) And yes, that's a detail we Alaskans aren't above repeating... :)
(no subject) - gows on September 24th, 2008 09:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)