Matters of mattering

Sarah Palin said yes, thanks, to a road to nowhere in Alaska, a story in Thursday’s LATimes, is one among countless gotcha!s which in sum comprise a sea of bad news across which Alaska’s governor is obliged to walk like Jesus. So here’s a thought. What if the Gravina Island Bridge, the $398 million “bridge to nowhere”, was not much worse than any other piece of pork — just easier for hand-wringers to target?

I mean, hey, if you were a citizen of Ketchikan, where your whole town depends on tourism for its existence, and where your airport is on an island that can only be reached by sea — and where your whole state has always depended on large sums of federal largesse and involvement — this bridge may not have been pork. It was business as usual, and just your town’s turn to score.

Could it be that Senator Stevens was doing his job, and doing it well? Looks to me like the bridge would have gone forward, and never would have been a Big Issue, had Katrina not wiped out New Orleans and required large efforts to rebuild infrastructure there, highlighting porky projects elsewhere in the country.

In other words, what we’re looking at here is Politics as Usual. That is more than enough to explain Sarah Palin’s initial support for the bridge, her change of position after the winds of popular opinion shifted, and her truth-shading after the fact. More importantly, the whole thing says little about her ability to serve the country as Vice President, or as President in the not-unlikely chance that John McCain will fail to serve out his first term.

I won’t be voting for McCain/Palin. But the governor’s porky political past is not one of the reasons.

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  1. Brad’s avatar

    How is it likely (or as you put it, not-unlikely) that McCain will fail to serve out his first term? He’s 72 which makes his life expectancy 12 more years. That means it is likely that he will be able to serve a full 8 year double term.

  2. orcmid’s avatar

    Ivisited Alaska (Ketchikan and Juneau) for the first time on the first cruise up their this past Spring. The issue for Ketchikan is that flip over between logging, fishing, and tourism to almost all tourism (much of it serving seasonal outsiders), little fishing, and no logging. The average income of residents dropped from $42,000 to under $20,000 in the interval.

    A bigger issue, if global warming proceeds as expected, even if we are able to intervene, is that these island and coastal areas are going to be wiped out at the sea-level strips that are now inhabited and arable. That is going to take a little long-range planning and serious infrastructure work one way or the other. (Hawaiian islands like Kauai will need some major efffort too.)

    Here in the puget sound we might be able to build some pretty heavy dams, and dike and lock systems, but the likely case is reclaiming larg areas of tidal basin by the sea and loss of arable land and fresh groundwater around the Puget Sound.

    [The kind of thoughts I was having while waiting for the bus in the rain today.]

  3. T Sadler’s avatar

    Amen. No pun intended. No really. Those on the “progressive” side of the debate need to learn to “pick your battles”. The “bridge to nowhere” is surely not one of them.

    Thank you Doc, for your steadfast earnestness, we need it.

    a Liberal and proud to admit it.

  4. Adam Fields’s avatar

    There’s something to be said for the position that ‘politics as usual’ is, in fact, a big part of the problem.

  5. Bob Boynton’s avatar

    The problem is less taking ‘pork,’ since all of us expect our elected leaders to provide us this benefit, and more the lying. We have lived with 8 years of lies — from the unimportant to the very important. We do not need another campaign filled with lies about oneself and one’s opponent. And that is what we have right now — just more of the same. For example, a third of the population now believes that Obama is or at least has been a muslim and John McCain is an active christian — neither is accurate. Or that Mr. Obama is going to raise your taxes, etc. But the word is out, and there are plenty of people ready to believe the lies.

  6. Neil Gorman’s avatar

    I don’t think the fact that state governments will spend money in foolish ways will come as a surprise to anyone.

    The “bridge to nowhere” was one way to spend the money of tax payers, that would give them very little long term payback. Nonetheless (I think) the construction of this bridge would have provided many people with jobs, which would have bolstered the economy in Alaska. (I might be wrong about that.)

    The governments (states & federal) pattern of allowing money to be spent in ways that only provide short term gains, and ignore the long term consequences is a systemic problem in our governments. I just wish that people would focus on this problem from a systems point of view, rather than just harp on the “bridge to nowhere”.

    I don’t expect that the Republican party of today will be the party that takes a hard stance on system fixes, because those sort of fixes seem to require a great deal of regulation, which they have a history of not wanting.


  7. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Bob, if the problem is lying (and it is), both campaigns are full-bore duplicitors. Obama and Biden keeping up with McCain and Palin in the race to the bottom of the mud pit. It’s sad to watch.

  8. thedude’s avatar

    No one goes to Ketchican by Plane. Tourism is all about the Cruise ships. They have a ferry system in place that can handle the volume. Right solution to the right problem. Bridge = wrong solution.

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