Why You Read Balloon Juice

The Instapundit links to this Reason piece which notes the infamous Bridge to Nowhere is being funded anyway and states:

BRIDGES TO NOWHERE: They’re not dead. They’re baaack!

The Reason piece sums up what has happened to the ‘defunded’ bridges, which aren’t really back, because they never went anywhere:

It got so bad that Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, roared, “If the Senate decides to discriminate against our state . . . I will resign from this body.” Taxpayer advocates could only pray that he would keep his word.

And sure enough, Congress acted. Headlines across the country echoed this one in the New York Times: “Two ‘Bridges to Nowhere’ Tumble Down in Congress.” The Times story began, “Congressional Republicans decided Wednesday to take a legislative wrecking ball to two Alaskan bridge projects that had demolished the party’s reputation for fiscal austerity.”

Good news indeed. Except – Ted Stevens didn’t resign from Congress. Why not? Because it was all a show, just smoke and mirrors. Congress removed the requirement that Alaska use the money for the bridges to nowhere. But the state still got the money – a $454 million blank check.

And sure enough, Gov. Frank Murkowski has included money for both bridges in his new state budget. Murkowski, who used to be a senator himself, works closely with the state’s congressional delegation. Indeed, when he was elected governor, he searched the length and breadth of the great state of Alaska to find a qualified replacement and eventually found her across the breakfast table – his daughter, Lisa, who now works hand in hand with Stevens and Young to keep the funding pipeline flowing.

Well, no kidding. Everyone here knew that, because I told you exactly what was going to happen last month when this took place:

In other words, they defunded mandatory spending on the ‘bridge to nowhere,’ but gave them the damned money anyway.

Fiscal Conservatism circa 2005- Defund preparations for the pandemic flu, and shower Alaska with filthy lucre as a compromise for removing a stupid piece of pork-barreling spending that should not have been there anyway.

Radley Balko was even more explicit:

This is smoke and mirrors. It’s a cheap stunt by the GOP to deflect public criticism that doesn’t really change much of anything. All the conference committee did was remove the earmark for the bridges. Alaska will still be getting the same obscene amount of money from the federal government, it’s just that the state won’t be required to use it to build those two particular bridges. It’ll be up to the executive and the state legislature to decide how to spend it.

Now it’s possible that the legislature, which seems to be at least a hair more reasonable than Alaska’s governor and congressional delegation, will nix the bridge idea. I’m not optimistic. But even if they do, the original half billion dollars earmarked for the bridges won’t go to more worthy projects like rebuilding the Gulf, or, better yet, back to the taxpayers. Instead of going toward Ted Stevens’, Don Young’s, and Lisa Murkowski’s pet projects, it’ll merely be redirected toward the pet projects of Gov. Frank Murkowski and the Alaska state legislature. And don’t forget, Murkowski, who’s wife owns land on Gravina Island, fought long and hard for this bridge, too.

No, I am not going to break my arm patting myself on the back with this self-congratulatory post, because it makes me sick that I know the current Republican party so well I can predict their bullshit weeks in advance.

We’ll file this under ‘Fiscal Conservatism’ and ‘Honesty and Integrity.’ Shameless SOB’s. And don’t tell me they didn’t know EXACTLY what they were doing, because Radley Balko and I did.

17 replies
  1. 1
    Pooh says:

    It’s worse than you think – guess who owns much of the land accessed by the two bridges? (disclosure, one of them (Knik Arm crossing) might NOT be the Worst. Idea. Ever, but is certainly not worth the price tag. The other one (Gravina) more resembles W.I.E status)

    Various children, cousins, old business associates and son’s-in-law of various Young’s, Murkowski’s and Stevenses, that’s who:

    To state Board of Fisheries chairman Art Nelson, Don Young’s Way, the proposed Knik Arm crossing named after his father-in-law, is hardly a bridge to nowhere.

    For Nelson and his well-connected partners in Point Bluff LLC, Rep. Don Young’s span is in fact a bridge to somewhere: their 60 acres of unobstructed view property on the Point MacKenzie side of Cook Inlet. The land sits directly across from Elmendorf Air Force Base, north of the Anchorage port and downtown.

    (Caveat: Lisa Murkowski is nowhere near the fucknut her father is, the governor is. The outcry up here when she was appointed was not about nepotism, but rather she wasn’t ‘conservative’ enough. But she doesn’t seem to be stepping up on this one)

  2. 2

    John, you are a God. For several reasons and you also seem to be able to read the future. Can I consult you when I need some predictions?

    Pooh, you are shitting me, right? Cripes, it just gets worse and worse. This is the kind of crap DeLay pulls.

  3. 3
    Pooh says:


    And it’s not even a big secret up here. (Hell, we dig that we’re taking your money, it’s why we keep sending Uncle Ted back…)

  4. 4
    Davebo says:


    It’s just a drop in the bucket really. As much as I love Alaska (and it’s incredible Salmon fishing) I always laugh when an Alaskan talks to me about their rugged individualism.

  5. 5
    Pooh says:

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it’s easy to be rugged and individualistic when the poor saps from 49 other states are subsidizing said ruggedness. (And yes, I know it’s just a drop in the bucket. Have you flown into Ted Stevens International recently?)

  6. 6
    Zifnab says:

    It’s nice to know that Senator Byrd has some honest competition, although I think Stevens can win this without much trouble in the long run. He’s just got so much more state to fill with random expensive architectural crap with his name on it.

    When it comes to Senators and pork, I do understand the underlying arguement of ‘to-each-his-own’ and ‘every-money-whore-for-himself’ but this just isn’t the time or the place. When we were $40 billion in the black, then pork was forgivable. $200 billion in the red is not the time to be playing ‘how much can I bilk the public for’ games. We don’t have the cash to be this foolish.

  7. 7
    p.lukasiak says:

    does this mean that Ted Stevens has quit the Senate?


  8. 8

    Pay No Attention To That Consolation Prize

    So Senator Ted Stevens (AK) may have in fact (for now) lost out in his quest to sell off the oil underneath the ANWR. He may have also lost on his $450 million bridge boondoggle – oh, wait, what? Balloon…

  9. 9
    DougJ says:

    How come we never hear the *good news* about pork barrell spending? What about all the uninhabited islands we *haven’t* built bridges to?

  10. 10
    demimondian says:

    Have you noticed that there’s a correlation between complaining about pork-barrel spending by this administration and an inability to consider creative uses for vegetable sponges?

    Just asking…

  11. 11
    Perry Como says:

    Actually, this is why I read Ballon Juice. Merry Christmas!

  12. 12
    Far North says:

    The most depressing thing about the state I love is Ted Stevens. Although he has been around since before the Steelers won a super bowl, Ted is the typical new-century Republican. You know what Ted is going to say before he says it. If Bush supports torture, Ted Stevens supports torture. If Bush says Saddam has WMDs, Ted says Saddam has WMDs. If Bush says Iraq is going great, Ted says Iraq is going great. Ted is re-elected year after year by some of the most unprincipled voters in the country: Alaskans.

    Alaskans like to tout themeselves has rugged, independent and anti-government. But most Alaskans would trample over their grandmothers to feed at the federal trough. Ask any Alaskan. They’ll tell you they have no use for government. But they’ll send Ted to Washington to raid the federal treasury on their behalf. Those damn bridges are a perfect example.

    I remember the image two months ago of Ted Stevens wagging his finger in the face of reporters who were questioning legislation that he passed that directly benefited his son. Ted’s message was that all these distractions and questioning of his ethics meant that he had less time to bring home money for Alaska. I shit you not. He said this.

    But the unpricipled Alaska Republican didn’t care. As long as Ted brings home the money. Ted Stevens is a prime example of what is wrong with our political system.

    A lot of us in Alaska blame the Alaska pipeline and all the money grubbing uneducated greedy slime it brought up from Oklahoma and Texas back in the 70s. I support drilling in ANWR but I’ll tell you what. If ANWR drilling never passes, at least we won’t be invaded by those freeloading slimeball oil industry workers that just take, take and take. Ask them about contributing something to Alaska and all you’ll hear is I DON’T EVER WANT TO PAY TAXES FOR ANYTHING. NOT FOR SCHOOLS, NOT FOR POLICE, NOT FOR ROADS. NO TAXES EVER.

    For fuck sake, Ted voted for torture. ARGGGHHH. And nobody of any consequence in Alaska said a fucking thing about it except the Anchorage Daily news. Not one Republican Leader in Alaska said a damn thing. We have a republican for governor and the house and senate are firmly in republicans control and not one damn one of them said a thing. And Ted will be re-elected in a landslide because he brings it home.

  13. 13
    eileen from OH says:

    I’ve been away for awhile (though still read every day), but had to wish all Merry HanaKwanaChristolidays! As a Dem with strong libertarian and even some (gasp!) conservative ideals (the “real” ones, like fiscal responsibility), it’s wonderful to read you, John. Even if I don’t agree with you 100%, I never doubt your honesty. And no day is complete without DougJ (though I was on to you awhile ago, you scamp, you.)

    eileen from OH

  14. 14
    Pooh says:

    Far North,

    Though I agree in substance, I feel that the Alaskan voter deserves some defense. (I’m an expat living here for a year, not getting the PFD, so I have some objectivity) In the interest of fairness, Uncle Ted has at least been balanced in his largesse: the Alaskan arts community has benefited immensely (The Anchorage museum recently completed a large expansion), and the Alaska Native has known no greater champion. (If you want to see a truly shameful chapter of U.S. history, read up on the governments treatment of Alaska Native groups. Other Indian groups got a fair shape by comparison.)

    That being said, he’s still a venal fuck.

  15. 15
    Far North says:

    Point taken.

    I agree that many good things have come from Ted’s raid of the federal treasury but it looks like we both think Ted has lost his way as an independent thinker. Ted stands for two things now. The first is to support Bush no matter the consequences. The second is to grab as much money as he can for Alaska no matter the situation in any of the 49 other states.

    The thing that gets me is that I know many federal workers in Alaska the despise Ted and his politics but they keep casting votes his way because they think Ted guards their COLA (cost of living allowance). Federal COLA in Alaska is 33%. That is tax free money and it’s enough for them to abandon their principles.

    I just don’t understand what’s happened to my state.

  16. 16
    neil says:

    it makes me sick that I know the current Republican party so well I can predict their bullshit weeks in advance.

    See, reading Daily Kos really _does_ pay off.

  17. 17
    Nelson Muntz says:

    As long as you call yourself a Republican, you are responsible for this mess. So what are you going to do about it in a meaningful way?

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  1. Pay No Attention To That Consolation Prize

    So Senator Ted Stevens (AK) may have in fact (for now) lost out in his quest to sell off the oil underneath the ANWR. He may have also lost on his $450 million bridge boondoggle – oh, wait, what? Balloon…

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