Friday, September 05, 2008

The Gravina Island Bridge

You've heard of this project. Really. But it's more popularly known as "the bridge to nowhere".

I've heard so much about this I finally decided to look it up to see what all the fuss was about. The most recent inspiration was a conversation I had recently about how Senator John McCain's running mate Sarah Palin, currently Governor of Alaska, had been "for it before she was against it", as if it's realistic to expect executives of any govt level to refuse money for a project like this.

It turns out that "nowhere" is the airport for Ketchikan, Alaska (pop 8000), which is located on Gravina Island (pop 50).

It's funny how the airport never gets mentioned. The Salon article linked above notes that it has "fewer than 10 commercial flights a day". Sounds pretty lame until you consider that Ketchikan has only 8000 residents. How many other towns of comparable size have *any* commercial service, much less 10 a day? Yes, air transportation is more important in Alaska than in most of the rest of the country.

A resident of Gravina Island notes that there is a ferry and that she can get from home to the local hospital in 5 minutes. OK. But it's still a ferry, limited in size and speed, and my guess is that anyone who lives on a place like Gravina Island didn't go there so they could have lots of neighbors. That is, the residents probably prefer the isolation and thus would oppose the bridge even if it were significantly cheaper.

Would Gravina Island ever be developed to the extent that this would make sense as an investment in infrastructure? That's hard to believe. Suppose the population of the island rose to 1000 people, and they paid $4000 per capita in federal taxes (just to have a number, probably right order of magnitude). If every time of those federal taxes went to paying off a $223M bridge to an island with no paved roads.... This is by no means an adequate evaluation, but my guess is that we'll get a lot more bang for the buck elsewhere.

To hear the overheated rhetoric, you might be thinking that this is the worst example of pork ever. In fact it's probably because it was in the budget at the time of Hurricane Katrina, and people were looking for funds that could be diverted to Katrina relief. I don't keep track of these things, but a far better candidate might be the Army Corps of Engineers' Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway that connects the Tennessee River with the Gulf of Mexico via the Tombigbee River. Many more are discussed a WaPo article here.

The article notes that the Corps of Engineers had already spent more in Louisiana in than in any other state, with spectacularly unsuccessful results - "The Corps has eluded the public's outrage -- even though a useless Corps shipping canal intensified Katrina's surge, even though poorly designed Corps floodwalls collapsed just a few feet from an unnecessary $750 million Corps navigation project , even though the Corps had promoted development in dangerously low-lying New Orleans floodplains and had helped destroy the vast marshes that once provided the city's natural flood protection."

That article goes on to note that "Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) are pushing a Corps reform bill that would require independent reviews of large projects, but they aren't getting much traction."

We will continue to have pork as long as the federal govt is empowered to do so. Sheesh, if there are "penumbras and emanations" from the Constitution that guarantee a right to choose to kill fetuses (and even live births, if you vote like Barack Obama), isn't there one to protect us from nonsense like this?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Women being abused!

I thought maybe I could make it through a political season without blogging, but no. I managed to sit still as the lamest candidate ever managed to game the system to the point where he beat someone who's forgotten more than he'll ever know, but enough about Barack Obama - this time it's about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Good grief, the crap we're hearing already. What is there not to like about this woman?

Yet look at this video - apparently someone is trying to paint her as stupid for asking what the vice president does on a day-to-day basis. It's a fair question, because no two administrations are the same. Does anyone think that, say, Al Gore did the same things from day to day in the 1990s that Lyndon Johnson did in the early 1960's? The Constitution doesn't have much to say about day to day veep work - most of that will be determined by John McCain and Ms. Palin if he wins.

And really, how many veeps can you name who weren't elected in your lifetime? The job isn't a big deal unless you think the Pres is likely to keel over during his turn or you're worried about close votes in the Senate. It's true that McCain is in his 70's and has been treated for cancer. But he kept campaigning while Obama had to stop and rest, and McCain's mother was robust enough to show up at the Republican National Convention. He must have some good genes.

Oh yeah, her daughter is knocked up! Obviously Palin must have failed as a parent! That's arguable, but I would say no (I'm having a hard time imagining what it must be like to be a teenager in small-town Alaska with long cold winters). But it is interesting how parenting talent didn't come up while Al Gore's kid was getting busted for speeding and drugs, and if he knocked up any girls there are always plenty of abortionists willing to kill the baby cheap.

Heavens, she'll be distracted by her family! Maybe. I hope so. Every minute she's worrying about them is one more she won't be spending looking for things to meddle with or laying the groundwork for becoming filthy stinking rich after she leaves office. And I'll bet that lots of parents would like to have free help from the Secret Service in looking after their children.

Then there's her husband, who has a DUI conviction that dates back before they even married!

She wasn't adequately vetted! I have no idea, but then neither do the jackasses who are asserting this. They appear to be making the assumption that if they don't approve of something, McCain wouldn't either, therefore vetting must have been inadequate. Contrast this with Bill "you'd better put some ice on that" Clinton and his "bimbo eruptions", among other things - did he get vetted at all?

It would be nice if in fact the media had decided that *all* candidates' backgrounds should be investigated, not just Republicans', but that's not a change I can believe in.

I could go on, but really, this stuff is absurd. Come on Barack Obama, grow a pair and call off your lickspittles in the media. That doesn't sound like a new kind of politics to me.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

It's not news, it's Reuters

The headline says Shooting spree leaves six dead in Washington state.

They did note that "Local media reported that the suspect has a history of mental illness and a criminal past." One might suspect that this might account for the man's rampage.

But no, this is Reuters. We must be told that "The incident is the latest in a series of mass shootings over the last few years in the United States, which is estimated to have the world's highest civilian gun ownership rate, leading gun control advocates to push for tighter restrictions."

Do you suppose I'll live long enough to see Reuters report on massacres of civilians in places like Darfur and note that "this is the latest in a series of mass shootings by governments or criminals, leading self defense advocates to push for more arms for civilians"?