Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sarah Palin and the Department of Law

Hear that lonesome Governor
She sounds too blue to rule -- aye.
The self-pity comes a' whining now,
She’s so hounded she could cry….

--Not a song by Hank Williams

Hunter S. Thompson titled the first volume of his selected works The Great White Shark Hunt, and dedicated it to Richard Milhouse Nixon, “who never let me down.” Usually, that’s a nice thing to say about someone, and there is a certain sense of gratitude behind Mr. Thompson’s somewhat snarky remark. After all, it must have been some comfort knowing that no matter what twisted and crazy thoughts he attributed to the Trickster, Mr. Thompson felt secure knowing the truth would prove to be even weirder than anything he could dream up. No doubt Mr. Thompson's spirit is pleased with the revelations from the newly released Nixon tapes, showing Nixon was even more vehemently anti-semitic, profane, and irrational in his drunken rages than anyone—even gonzo journalists—suspected.

Ms. Sophia Loren. If you asked her,
you just know she'd say "Holy crap!
Look at the pictures, and jump to 
the end. It's not worth it."
When the Going Gets Weird, the Weird Turn Pro

While fishing with the family on Monday July 6 2009 (What? Don’t most governors take a few days off immediately after giving their three week notice of resignation?), Governor “Spiro” Palin offered still more clairification as to why she abruptly resigned. The Anchorage Daily News reported that Governor Palin was set up to be the victim of a two-pronged attack: ethics complaints on the one hand, and politically ambitious legislators on the other. Together, they would have tag teamed the Governor’s office to the point of total paralysis: "Especially when all these lawmakers are lining up for office. Their desire would be to clobber the administration left and right so that they can position themselves for office. I'm not going to put Alaskans through that," Governor Palin is quoted.

Governor Palin’s July 3 2009 statement also emphasized the persistence of memory of ethics complaints had clocks melting all over the Governor’s office: “The ethics law I championed became their weapon of choice . . . Every one – all 15 of the ethics complaints have been dismissed. We’ve won! . . . It’s pretty insane – my staff and I spend most of our day dealing with THIS instead of progressing (sic) our state now (sic).”

If only she were White House Palin (title to be named later) instead of Governor Palin. Why? Because if Governor Palin were in the White House, she would be protected from frivolous ethics complaints by the Department of Law. As she said to ABC News’s Kate Snow, “I think on a national level, your department of law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we’ve been charged with, and automatically throw them out. And a moron says what."

Okay. I made up that last part.

But just for kicks cf Paul Revere & the Raiders, let’s give the Alaska Governor a Department of Law, and see in those fifteen ethics complaints would have been handled differently.

Mr. Jack Webb. Don't EVEN think of
handing him the wrong number of
ethics complaints you're facing--let
alone mischaracterizing their status.
Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!

All person having business before the Honourable, the Governor’s Department of Law of the State of Alaksa, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Department is now sitting. God save Alaska and this Honourable Department. 

Or words to the effect.

From the Anchorage Daily News, here are the fifteen ethics complaints Governor Palin complains of.

1. July 28, 2008: Alaska lawmakers launched an investigation into whether Governor Palin abused her power when she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan over his refusal to let go a state trooper involved in a contentious divorce with Palin's sister. 

This is actually two complaints, if not three. First, there are the allegations that Governor Palin used her official capacity for her personal interest in trying to have her ex-brother in law fired as a state trooper. Second, there were complaints that Husband Todd also used Governor Palin’s official capacity (a power he was not entitled to use) to further the same private interest. Finally, there is the complaint by former Public Safety Commissioner Monegan that he was fired by Governor Palin, for refusing to do something that Monegan believed illegal; specifically, firing Governor Palin’s ex-brother in law.

Held: Not automatically thrown out. The allegations against the Mr. and Governor Palin—if true—would in fact violate Alaska law. Additionally, if Commissioner Monegan were fired for refused to violate Alaska law, that could also violate Alaska law. 

Result in real life: Mr. Stephen Branchflower, a special counsel leading the investigation, concluded on Oct. 10 that Palin violated a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain. The firing itself was deemed lawful since Monegan was an at-will employee.

2. Aug. 6, 2008: Complaint alleges Governor Palin and some staff members used their influence to get Mr. Tom Lamal, who once co-hosted a Palin fundraiser, a job as a state surveyor. 

Held: Not automatically thrown out. Complaint alleges that Mr. Lamal was hired not on merit, but because he raised money for the Governor. If true, could be a violation of Alaska law.

Result in real life: Dismissed by state personnel board, although the board's investigator recommended ethics training for one staffer who made questionable comments in e-mails.

Ms. Sophia Loren. What? Doesn't
everyone put on their opera gloves
before their dress?
3. Aug. 20, 2008: Complaint accuses Governor Palin of breaking election law by taking a public position on a mining ballot initiative days before the vote. 

Held: Automatically thrown out--maybe. I don’t know anything about Alaska election law, and what restrictions officials have on taking public positions. Department might defer to Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Result in real life: Rejected May 8 by the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

August 29, 2008: Governor Palin named GOP vice presidential candidate, political operatives swarm.

4. Sept. 2, 2008: Governor Palin files a "self-disclosure" with the state personnel board over the Troopergate affair, saying a state legislative probe had become too political. 

Held: Um…Not automatically thrown out? If Governor Palin filed this complaint against herself, I’m guessing she did not want the complaint to be dismissed.

Result in real life: On Nov. 3 (the day before the election) Mr. Timothy Petumenos, a lawyer hired by the board, said that Palin violated no ethics laws when she fired Commissioner Monegan.

5. Sept. 3, 2008: Complaint by the Public Safety Employees Association alleged Palin or her staff had unauthorized access to, and improperly disclosed information from, personnel records of Trooper Mike Wooten, Palin's ex-brother-in-law. Complaint was later amended to include an allegation of harassment. 

Held: Not automatically thrown out. The allegations by the Union, if true, would be a violation of Alaska law.

Held in real life: The PSEA's allegations were investigated alongside Palin's filing and dismissed.

Ms. Anita Eckberg. Not everyone can 
wear heels at the beach.
6. Oct. 13, 2008: Former Public Safety Commissioner Monegan asked the board for a hearing to clear his name. 

Held: Automatically thrown out. Apparently, the panel has no jurisdiction to give Commissioner Monegan the relief he is seeking.

Result in real life: Mr. Petumenos, in his Nov. 3 Troopergate report to the panel, said there was no legal basis or jurisdiction for such a hearing.

7. Oct. 23, 2008: Complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), alleging the $150,000-plus designer wardrobe the Republican Party bought to outfit Governor Palin in her vice presidential quest violated Federal Election Campaign Act. 

Held: Not automatically thrown out. First, this was a complaint to the FEC, and the imaginary Alaska Governor’s Department of Law has no authority to order the FEC to dismiss complaints. Second, the allegations (if true) would violate the Federal Election Campaign Act, because donor money cannot be used for personal expenses.

Result in real life: The FEC ruled May 19 that party money is not covered by the ban.

8. Oct. 24, 2008: Complaint alleges Governor Palin abused her power by charging the state when her children traveled with her. 

Held: Not automatically thrown out. If true, the allegation would be a violation of Alaska law.

Result in real life: The personnel board found no wrongdoing, but in a Feb. 23 settlement Palin agreed to reimburse the state about $10,000 for costs associated with 10 trips found to be of questionable state interest among 72 travel authorizations studied.

Ms. Jane Russell. Like I said before, no
matter how stupid, Ms. Russell could
make anything look almost normal.
9. Nov. 14, 2008: Complaint accuses Governor Palin of partisan "post-election damage control" for talking to reporters about the campaign in her state office. 

Held: Automatically thrown out, but without prejudice. Alaska law prohibits use of state facilities for campaigning for office. If the complaint is amended to list how Governor Palin's actions could be considered “campaigning,” then this may be a valid compaint. 

Result in real life: Dismissed by state personnel board March 23.

10. Dec. 2, 2008: Alleged Palin violated ethics law by campaigning for Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. 

Held: Automatically thrown out (probably). I don’t know the specifics of Alaska law, and what limits there are on campaigning for out of state candidates. I’m just guessing here, but unless there was an allegation that Governor Palin was using state resources to campaign for Senator Saxby (and there does not appear to be), then I doubt there is a valid complaint. If there is such an allegation, though, I’m going to defer to the state personal board.

Result in real life: Dismissed by state personnel board March 23.

11. Dec. 18, 2008: Complaint contended Palin misused funds of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, a quasi-government entity, to promote her political ambitions with ads featuring her, thus violating ethics law. The ads promoting Alaska seafood ran in the National Fisherman last year through November. 

Held: Not automatically thrown out. Probably. This is another tricky one, because I don’t know anything about Alaska law. However, the allegations (again, if true) sound to me like they could be a violation of ethics laws. The key (I’m guessing) is what funds were used, and how those moneys were spent. 

Result in real life: Dismissed Jan. 12 after a personnel board investigation determined Palin's only involvement was to give permission to use her image long before she was named McCain's running mate. 

Pretty much just as I predicted!

Not Edna Birch.
12. Jan. 12, 2009: Complaint alleging interference in a job hiring was filed under the name of Edna Birch, a busybody character on the British soap opera "Emmerdale." Palin's attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said no one by that name could be found living in Alaska and the filer refused to use a real name.

Held: Automatically thrown out. Complainant failed to appear to pursue claim. Department does note, however, that the Department has never even heard of either Emmerdale or Edna Birch, and wishes the Complainant had used the name “Mrs. Emma Peel,” as Ms. Diana Rigg’s hotness would lend the allegations considerable gravitas. 

Result in real life: Complaint was dismissed Feb. 20.

13. and 14. Jan. 26, 2009: Two complaints allege two of Governor Palin's top aides misused their positions for Palin's personal and political gain. Specifically, then-press secretary Bill McAllister and Kris Perry (director of the governor's Anchorage office) worked on state time to benefit Palin's interests during and after her vice presidential quest. 

Held: Neither complaint is automatically thrown out, as allegations do state a violation of law.

Result in real life: The complaint against Perry was dismissed June 17. The complaint against McAllister is pending.

15. March 18, 2009: Complaint alleges Governor Palin improperly used state staff, property, time and equipment for partisan political purposes. One of the grievances cited was Palin's posting of her veep candidacy on the official state governor's Web site: http://gov.state.ak.us/archive.php?id=1439&type=1

Held: Crap. Let’s say automatically thrown out, without prejudice. I need more information about what were the specific allegations about state money spent for campaigning, and whether Governor Palin’s posting her candidacy on a state web site is “campaigning” under Alaska law. 

Result in real life: Dismissed by personnel board May 27 as lacking merit.

Ms. Elizabeth Taylor. She got tired of
wading through the laundry list of
complaints, so she decided to hit the
beach. She advises you to do the
16. March 24, 2009: Alleges conflict of interest by Governor Palin, because she wore Arctic Cat logo gear during the Tesoro Iron Dog snowmobile race. Palin's husband, Todd, was sponsored by Arctic Cat in the race. 

Held: Automatically thrown out—probably. I need more information. To avoid automatic throwing out, the complaint would have to allege that Governor Palin used her official capacity to actively promote Arctic Cat for personal gain. If that is the substance of the complaint, then there is no throwing out automatically.

Result in real life: Dismissed June 2.

17. April 22, 2009: Alleges that the work of Governor Palin's political action committee violated two provisions of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, by misusing her official position and the Governor accepting employment outside the state. 

Held: Not automatically thrown out—probably. Again, this requires more knowledge of Alaska law than I have, but it sounds like the allegations would in fact be a violation of state law. I would defer to the state personal board.

Result in real life: Dismissed as lacking merit by state personnel board May 8.

18. April 27, 2009: Alleges that Governor Palin is misusing the governor's office for personal gain by securing unwarranted benefits, and receiving improper gifts through the Alaska Fund Trust. Supporters established this fund to help Governor Palin pay legal bills. 

Held: Not automatically thrown out. The state and federal regulations surrounding PACs, and how can spend their money is far beyond the expertise of any imaginary Department of Law. If there is even the remotest substance to the complaint, automatic throw out would not be appropriate. 

Result in real life: Complaint pending.

Ms. Sophia Loren. She fits nice in most
19. April 31, 2009: Complaint alleges that Governor Palin either knew or should have known she was lying when she claimed in her July 3, 2009 statement that “all 15 of the ethics complaints” against her have been “dismissed,” because she “won.” The actual number of complaints is greater than fifteen, she has in fact “lost” some of the complaints, and others are still pending.

Held: Department of Law recuses itself, because of the close ties between Department members and Samsara Samizdat, the Complainant. 

Result in real life: Dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The state personal board lacks legislative authority to rule on imaginary complaints filed by imaginary people on imaginary dates.

20. June 31, 2009: Complaint alleges Governor Palin failed to disclose to state and federal authorities (including but not limited to the Internal Revenue Service) that all or some part of the 2002 construction of her Wasilla home was given to her or her family, in the form of goods and/or services, by contractors and/or subcontractors of the Wasilla Sports Complex, because it just does not seem credible that her fisherman husband and a few friends could have built a two-story 3,450 square foot home—despite the fact that even MENTIONING it is considered re-publication of defamatory material without answering to it in a court of law or being responsible for the abuse of right to free speech under the Alaska Constitution and continuing to publish what Mr. Thomas Van Flein believes to be falsehoods of criminal activity (just his personal opinion) is reckless, done without any regard for the truth, and is actionable.

Held: Department of Law recuses itself, because of the close ties between Department members and Samsara Samizdat, the Complainant. 

Result in real life: Dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The state personal board lacks legislative authority to rule on imaginary complaints filed by imaginary people on imaginary dates .

Ethics complaints to the left! Legislators
to the right! Here I am: stuck in the
middle with my (unspecified) Higher 
Power. Well, it sounds better with the music.
And the Winner is…………….

Adding up the results, there are a total of twenty-one ethics complaints, two of which do not count, because they are imaginary. I am splitting the first complaint into two parts: a) Governor and Mr. Palin’s abuse of authority, and b) the firing of Commissioner Monegan:

Motion to Automatically Throw Out granted
3. Public position on mining ballot initiative
6. Commissioner Monegan’s request for hearing to clear his name
9. Talking to reporters in State offices
10. Campaigning for Senator Saxby
12. Not hiring “Edna Birch”
15. Posting news of nomination to vice president on State web site
16. Wearing Arctic Cat logo

Complaint dismissed after investigation
1. (b) Firing of Commissioner Monegan
4. “Self Disclosure” filing on firing Commissioner Monegan
5. Improper disclosure of Trooper Wooten personnel information
7. FEC complaint re $150,000 worth of clothes
11. Ad for Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
14. Kris Perry using official capacity for Governor Palin’s personal gain
17. PAC violated Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act

Resolution of complaint pending
13. Press secretary McAllister using official capacity for Governor Palin’s personal gain
18. Misuse of official capacity with Governor Palin’s PAC

Violation of law found
1(a) – Abuse of Governor’s official capacity, by both Sarah and Todd Palin, regarding efforts to have State Trooper Wooten fired
2. Hiring of Mr. Tom Lamal as state surveyor
8. Charging State for children’s travel 

Products of a diseased imagination
19. Governor Palin lied when she claimed she had won all fifteen complaints against her
20. Who on earth built and paid for that house in Wasilla?

While the imaginary Alaska Department of Law automatically threw out seven of the nineteen complaints, I cannot imagine that any objective observer would think that the seven complaints that were dismissed after investigation did not merit further study. They were far from frivolous—with the possible exception of the Seafood Marketing ad. I needed more information about that complaint, as well as the Arctic Cat logo controversy (which was automatically thrown out). Between the two, I think I split the proverbial baby: one in, one out.

Ms. Colleen Miller. What? Doesn't
everyone takes their clothes off to
read the mail?
More importantly, contrary to Governor Palin’s claims, she has not “won” all the complaints lodged against her. For example, two complaints are still pending. Second, while reasonable minds can differ as to whether charging the children’s travel to the state was a “violation,” I will argue there was a finding of fault. While no violation was found, Governor Palin did reimburse the State for $10,000, after ten of the seventy-two trips reviewed were found to be of “questionable state interest.” Additionally, for the complaint regarding hiring Governor Palin fundraiser Mr. Tom Lamal, at least one person on the Governor's staff needed "special training" in the State's ethics law. That certainly does not mean the original complaint was frivolous. 

However, there is no debate that both Mr. and Governor Palin violated state ethics law, using Governor Palin’s official capacity for personal gain, when they tried to get their ex-brother in law fired.

All in all, I don't think an active Department of Law (with the power to Automatically Throw Out Complaints) would have made any difference.

Well--Yeah, But........

Here's one more point I find troubling. Governor Palin insists that both she and her office are wholly overwhelmed by these complaints, to the point Alaska is ungovernable. These nineteen complaints do not strike me as exactly insurmountable, especially over a one year period. And is dealing with these ethical complaints more time consuming than--let's just say--running for vice president of the United States?

To be fair, Governor Palin says both the ethics complaints and anticipated attacks from ambitious legislators are what keeps her from governing as governor. But what state Governor isn't getting bird dogged by their legislature? Especially now, with many states (like Alaska) facing horrific budget shortfalls (like 1.35 billion, or 30% of the state's entire budget).
Ms. Diana Rigg. "What did I tell you about asking me who paid for and built my house?"

It just seems there is something else going on here...But you know me: I LIVE to re-publicate defamatory material without answering to it in a court of law or being responsible for the abuse of right to free speech under the Alaska Constitution and continuing to publish falsehoods of criminal activity recklessly without any regard for the truth which some people threaten as being actionable.

But I'm just saying here. No, I mean right here.

Mr. Karstan Lovorn also contributed to this note, but specifically asked not to be mentioned.


Anonymous said...

The Arctic Cat thing wouldn't be thrown out, I don't believe.

The problem is not so much that she wore an article of clothing with a logo.

It's that she wore an article of clothing (actually it appeared to be a whole matching suit of clothing) with a logo of the company that SPONSORED her husband's snow machine team.

The company has apparently sponsored Mr. Palin's team for a number of years and Gov. Palin has reported that amount on her required disclosure forms previously.

This year, mysteriously, she is not only refusing to do so, but has asked for special permission NOT to disclose those amounts because it's a "secret" under the contract signed by them.

Aside from the, in my opinion, likely ethical violation of being a walking billboard for the company that is sponsoring your husband (and giving your family lots of free goodies as explained in the Sports Illustrated (?) article) there is the whole APPEARANCE of impropriety thing that elected officials need to be aware of and avoid.

Anonymous said...

You know - I think this is important stuff, if she didn't follow the law or rules she should be called on it - but, isn't there a bigger picture here that we should be focused on?

I think most of these are designed to get to her personally, not specifcially because she violated the rule or law - most politicians do so - either knowinging or quite innocently (not saying hers were innocent).

I think the bigger picture is the frivously spending by the government - you know - Washington? All the pork that has been added in those bills that aren't being read. Surely to God, if we are going to have a hissy fit about ETHICS - shouldn't we look and examin where the biggest percentage of the money is being squandered?

Just a thought.

Bill Abendroth said...

Samsara Samizdat responds:

Anonymous #1 re Arctic Cat--

Your analysis of why Governor Palin's Motion to Automatically Throw Out the Arctic Cat complaint would have been denied (I granted the motion) is probably correct.

While I was making fun of Governor Palin's "Department of Law," I treated the "motions to automatically throw out" as motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim, or motion for judgment on the pleadings.

For the Arctic Cat complaint, there were three additional points that helped shape my decision, that I did not discuss (I mean--look how long this note is. Someone on Facebook already branded it "tedious at best").

First, I have no idea what Arctic Cat is. I assumed that what whatever it was, it was also a line of clothing, much like Mountain Hardwear or Arc'teryx. Second, I live in Oregon. I can't speak for the rest of the planet, but here the Nike "swoosh" is like god--only more omnipresent and more omnipotent. Nike honcho Mr. Phil Knight passes out money everywhere to everyone, so if Oregon's Governor was wearing a piece of Nike clothing, and even brought attention to it, the argument would be the Governor was promoting an "Oregon Company" (uh huh). Finally, even though no one will believe me (and you probably shouldn't) I thought I was being a little hard on Governor Palin, so on that point I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Again, I was assuming that Governor Palin was not trading on her official capacity to be a walking billboard (NASCAR-style) for a company that did not manufacture clothing. If I am wrong (and it looks like I am), the Department of Law will either allow the motion for reconsideration (if Governor Palin can make up the Department of Law, I get to make up the rules of procedure), and reverse its ruling. In the alternative, all automatic throw outs were without prejudice, so the complaint could be re-filed, this time with additional supporting affidavits and photos.

I do want to mention though, that I REALLY wanted to say regarding the Arctic Cat complaint and the Seafood Marketing ad "one in, one out"--just like Humphrey Bogart said in Casablanca.......

Thank you for not only reading, but also taking the time to correct me.

Bill Abendroth said...

Samsara Samizdat responds:

Anonymous #2--

Your point that even if everything I am suggesting about Governor Palin is true (up to and including that the contractors who built the Wasilla Sports Complex gave her a free $535,000 home), aren't there really bigger fish to fry--is a good one. After all, given the amount of money poured into the banking system by both the Bush and Obama administrations that now cannot be accounted for--even half a million dollars is like worrying about paper clips.

Regarding your specific concern about "pork being added" to the so-called "stimulus" packages, here is my response.

First, don't let me shock you--but I lack the ability, knowledge, and inclination to wade through tens of thousands of pages of federal legislation, and recognize the difference between "pork" and "matters of vital national importance." For example, if I don't know what "Arctic Cat" is, I certainly am not going to recognize that a $400 million bridge connecting Ketchikan to Gravina Island was a bridge to nowhere.

Even if I did have that talent, I don't have the ear of anyone who needs to know that information. As it is, I try to deal in specifics as opposed to simple name calling (reasonable minds may differ), but I'm pretty sure that I am still the only one who reads the entire note (spicing the notes up with pictures of Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield can only go so far). Maintaining interest in notes about the traffic patterns and efficacy of public works projects would require access to photos and video of a level that simply do not exist. For example, nothing short of the "feelies" described in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World could have kept me focused enough to read the entire USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 (and probably not even then).

Second, as a bleeding heart left liberal democratic socialist freakizoid well out of mainstream America, I am soft on pork barrel spending (hey--I can't be soft on communism any more, and this seems to be the next best thing). After all, what is "pork"? For example, at the base of Oregon's Mount Hood, there is a beautiful building named Timberline Lodge http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timberline_Lodge built in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration. I have been there many times--and I don't even ski. While I love Timberline Lodge, for anyone living outside the Pacific Northwest, there is an argument that Timberline was a "pork barrel" project.

In mid-2008, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn was briefly the most hated man in Oregon, because he single handedly blocked a heart-stoppingly complicated plan, involving a land swap that would have increased the size of the Mt. Hood National Forest. I was so angry, I wrote letters to whatever media outlets I could find in Oklahoma about how Senator Coburn was penny-wise and pound foolish. However, I was unable to convince the few people who cared to respond that 1) there IS a difference between various pieces of land in Oregon (ie everything does not look the same here) and 2) I had no personal financial interest in the land swap--other than I snowshoed and backpacked in the Mt. Hood National Forest. From the perspective of Norman OK, adding land to a National Forest in Oregon is a pork barrel project.

Bill Abendroth said...

(Part 2)

Finally, as I mentioned in my note Palin's Enemies List http://samsamdat.blogspot.com/2009/07/palins-enemies-list.html , I am persuaded by Mr. Paul Krugman's arguments that more (as opposed to "less") stimulus is needed, and that means more public works projects. Does that mean I'd get behind The Bridge to Nowhere, even though it was a pet project of Senator Ted Stevens? Much as I hate the guy (see http://samsamdat.blogspot.com/2008/10/no-wait-you-dont-understand-i-really-am.html ), I'd have to say yes. After all, Alaska STILL got the $400 million originally targeted for the bridge--they just didn't have to build the bridge.

Just my personal opinion, but stimulus is stimulus. Government spending builds the economy (if you care, I'll explain how), and a bridge is something that the people in Ketchikan and Gravina Island can actually use. Are there better uses for federal tax dollars than that particular bridge? Sure--but "missile defense" (or more weapons "systems") is NOT one of them. Heck, if Ted Stevens wanted to build a covered people mover, ferrying people between Gravina Island and Ketchikan while sitting in Lay-Z-Boy recliners, watching first run movies on personal large screen televisions--if the money came out of the Pentagon weapons budget, I'd consider that money well spent.

But we digress.

Thank you for taking the time to clarify an incorrect impression I created.