Readers debate pork-barrel politics and whether Cindy Sheehan is a flip-flopper. Plus: A veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder responds to Mark Benjamin's "Sticker Shock Over Shell Shock."

By Salon Staff
August 13, 2005 12:00PM (UTC)
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[Read "A Bridge to Nowhere," by Rebecca Clarren.]

I first wish to thank Rebecca Clarren for the superb story on Don Young's outrageous bridge project.

There are, however, a few more damning details that failed to appear in her article. These facts all the more highlight not only the foul, despicable nature of this project, but also the disgraceful corruption that our Legislature wallows in.


Of foremost concern is that the plans for the bridge project it to cut right through Pennock Island, an active and traditional burial site of the Tongass and Cape Fox tribes of the Tlingit Nation. In addition to the incalculable harm this project does to the Native inhabitants of southern Alaska, and the exorbitant cost it places upon Americans in the "lower 48," the project itself was born of the vilest, most blatant sort of corruption. In her article, Ms. Clarren fails to state the true motive for this almost-trillion-dollar project: to aid the development of land privately owned by the governor.

Nancy Murkowski, the wife of Gov. Frank Murkowski, owns 33 acres of Gravina Island, valued at $224,600. Of course Frank Murkowski wants development of Gravina Island. And of course, then, Frank Murkowski gets his $900 billion in pork to make that development happen.

In short, this story is about more than the superficial ridiculousness of a trillion-dollar bridge linking two sparsely populated areas of the country. It is about the governor of Alaska taking money from all Americans to develop land he owns privately, and the despicable depths -- including grave desecration -- to which he will sink in order to do that.


-- Seth Cable

As I read this piece, the anger inside me heightened to such a degree that I punched my monitor and now probably need stitches. It will take me at least 10 minutes longer to get to the hospital from my Manhattan office than the ferry already servicing Gravina Island would have taken had I injured my hand splitting wood. Why doesn't the Democratic Party (who I know also engages in grievous pork spending) decide to take a stand against the policy? Sure, it's idealistic, but it seems a good way to appeal to moderate Republicans.

-- Steve Marchese


It is not entirely accurate to state that Ketchikan has a population of only 8,000 residents. Yes, there only 8,000 people within the city limits, but the city limits comprise only about 60 percent of the population on the island of Revillagigedo, on which Ketchikan is situated. The entire island is home to close to 14,000 people, and the entire Ketchikan Gateway Borough is home to even more, not to mention the outlying islands and Native reservations, all the residents of whom use the Ketchikan International Airport. Are there only 10 flights a day? Yes. What Rebecca Clarren does not point out is that those flights are practically our only way (besides lengthy ferry rides) in or out of the state -- there may only be 10 of them, but those flights are how we get to medical care, visit family and friends, and transport goods. The airport is part of the fabric of our community and our most important link to the rest of the world.

The Ketchikan bridge, which Ms. Clarren's story belittles, will spur economic growth and development in an area that has been nearly devastated by the closure of our lumber mill (thanks to the Washington, D.C., environmentalist Democrats) and the opening of a Wal-Mart (thanks to the corporate greed of Republicans). What Ms. Clarren also fails to mention is that Gravina, the island on which the airport is located, will be able to be opened up for commercial development if we build a bridge. Meaning, we may be able to salvage what little bit is left of our decimated timber industry.


Is it fair that Alaska receives more transportation money per person than other U.S. residents? Perhaps not. But the same people who are screaming at Congress about Alaskans getting too big a share of the transportation pie are the same people screaming at Congress to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and further devastate our fragile environment. The rest of the United States only cares about Alaska when they think they have an opportunity to either exploit our natural resources or stop us from managing our own. Over 95 percent of public lands in Alaska are not even owned by the state -- they are owned by the federal government. Is that fair?

Frankly, the residents of the great state of Alaska are tired of being told by the rest of the country how to manage our lands and our oil, but that is not going to stop the closure of our major timber industries to please the environmentalists and the opening up of our wildlife refuges to please the big oil interests. The least the country can do is allow us a chance to spur economic growth to replace the industries we have been forced to shut down.

Not all residents feel the same way Mike Sallee and Susan Walsh do. Some of us would like to see Ketchikan rebound from the economic slump and population drift our city has suffered over the past 10 years. I believe it's about time the politicians in D.C. do something positive for our state that gives us more control over our own resources.


-- Carrie Finegan

[Read "'Flip-flopping' Americans," by Eric Boehlert.]

It is truly disgusting to see how conservatives are "Swift-boating" Cindy Sheehan. A couple of big things they conveniently overlook in their blind rush to silence dissenters:

First, Cindy met with Bush just 11 weeks after her son was killed. How can anyone expect a mother who has just lost a child to be thinking as logically and clearly as the rest of us? I would be having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning 11 weeks after losing a child, let alone going to meet the president of the United States and pressing him for answers to hard questions. How callous and clueless to criticize her for what she is saying. So much for "compassionate conservatives."


Second, a whole lot of new hard evidence has surfaced since Cindy met with Bush in June 2004, including the Downing Street memos and the connection between the outing of CIA agent Plame and the false justifications for the war in Iraq that killed Cindy's son. You would have to be a potted plant to not want some straight answers about why your child died.

Cindy is a brave and amazing woman. She is shining a spotlight on the human agony that Bush's war of error in Iraq is causing. She is forcing every mother, and father, to think twice about supporting Bush and his war. That's a good thing. And that's exactly what the Bush administration is afraid of.

-- Jenny Saboley

Even if Cindy Sheehan had never had a son who died in Iraq, she'd still have the right to change her mind about the war, as do all sentient beings living in a democratic society.


The fact that some bloggers are mocking her for a change in heart based on a horrific event shows not just their insensitivity but also a pig-headedness that's both depressing and all too common.

"Supporting the troops" should mean supporting their families as well, and giving them the benefit of the doubt.

-- Tom Coombe

I agree that it is outrageous to fault Ms. Sheehan -- or anyone else -- for changing her mind about Iraq over a 14-month stretch. Ms. Sheehan makes some compelling points, but honestly, she could just as easily say, "I supported the war until I discovered what it was like to lose a son to it." No further facts, figures or arguments would have been needed.


Ms. Sheehan's change of mind does not bother me. What does bother me is that (if the Drudge Report article is to be believed) Ms. Sheehan has changed her account of her meeting with Bush. She portrayed him one way then and another way now.

It is this inconsistency that threatens her credibility. And lost credibility could well compromise her ability to get her message out. (I will concede though that this rarely seems to bite the neocons too badly.)

Ms. Sheehan has more than adequately accounted for why she changed her opinion. But the same is not true of why she seems to have changed her memory.

-- Eric Lichtenfeld


[Read "Sticker Shock Over Shell Shock," by Mark Benjamin.]

Thank you for your article on PTSD. I am both a veteran and a person who has PTSD (not related to my service). It amazes me how little the public understands mental illness -- and PTSD in particular -- and how willing this administration is to make use of that fact to "save money." It they were truly interested in rooting out errors and fraud in order to serve taxpayers (some of whom are veterans with PTSD), they would be assessing the whole system used for rating disability based on this diagnosis. What are they going to do with the money they save -- give it to Halliburton for another bloated contract?

It is not surprising to me that Matt LaBranche agrees with the war. Although I disagree with him, I also understand that he is capable of having a political opinion along with having PTSD. Having been in the military, I have also come to understand that sometimes it is necessary to believe in the "reason for the war" in order to mentally survive the experience. Having to go through the diagnosis/assessment process again may or may not lead him to realize he has been lied to about the war. If he does come to this realization, I hope it does not increase his PTSD -- though I'm pretty sure it will increase his pain. Unlike many who agree with the Iraq war, I do not wish pain upon people who disagree with me. I just continue to be appalled at how willing the administration is to destroy even their supporters in order to fulfill their neocon agenda.

-- Lynn E. Elder-Munro

Salon Staff

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